Caring for Those Touched by Dementia

Think about the people who cared for you – your parents or guardians who did everything in their power to raise you in a loving, supportive environment. When the tables turn, and they need help in much the same way you needed them early on in your life, it seems only natural for you to return the favor.

You know how to love and care for them best, so, it’s never easy to recognize that you need help in caring for your aging loved one. Choosing the right community for your cherished family member is a huge challenge. You have to trust that the staff is going to take care of your loved one in much the same way that you would.

When this person is afflicted with some form of memory loss, there is an added dimension to identifying the correct full-time care option.

“To work in a memory loss community like this one, you have to understand dementia,” Erika Young, Executive Director of Arbor Terrace Fairfax, an assisted living option for the memory loss community, said. “You need to have a passion for helping not only the resident, but also the family through this very difficult transition. Working in a memory care community is truly a calling. Caring and advocating for these wonderful individuals is such an honor and a privilege, one we do not take lightly.”

Arbor Terrace Fairfax is a unique memory care community located in Chantilly, Virginia. Under Young’s leadership, the community opened its doors about six months ago and today is almost at full capacity. The staff, made up of around-the-clock licensed personnel, cares for those who have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

With the overall rising need for specialized care, the local community welcomed Arbor Terrace Fairfax with open arms. “We received such a warm welcome into the community and look forward to meeting the needs of those who will benefit from our care and services,” Young said.

Over the last 20 years, Erika Young has had a rewarding career overseeing all types of senior living communities. And, she had an idea of her forté from an early age.

“Growing up, my grandparents lived right around the corner from us,” Young said. “In the midst of playing with my neighborhood friends, I would always stop by their house to see if they needed anything. I was always the neighborhood kid that had an eye and ear open in case someone needed help. I liked knowing they could count on me.”

The Need for Memory Care is Everywhere
Stand-alone memory care communities are on the rise everywhere, according to Young. An increasing number of communities are beginning to focus on memory care because the population is advancing toward developing these needs.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 1-in-9 Americans over 65 has Alzheimer’s disease and when the fi rst wave of baby boomers reaches age 85, in 2031, it is projected that more than 3 million people age 85 and older will have Alzheimer’s in the US.

“People are living longer and staying home longer,” said Young. “It is common for caregivers to wait until an event happens before they realize that their loved one needs a secured environment.”

She added that examples of events include leaving a pot on to boil and forgetting to turn it off, missing a scheduled appointment, or not remembering how to get to familiar locations.

Arbor Terrace Fairfax provides a dignified and enriching home for its residents. Its distinct two-neighborhood model distinguishes Arbor Terrace even from other memory care communities.

The Bridges neighborhood is designated for those in the early-to-moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Bridges is designed for more independent living, and its residents need minimal assistance. On the other hand, the Discovery neighborhood is for the moderate-to-end stages of memory loss disease.

“Residents in Discovery have greater care needs,” Young explained. “Both neighborhoods boast an amazing engagement program for all to participate in.”

Arbor Terrace Fairfax understands that placing your loved one into any community is an emotional process.

Yvonne Reese, Senior Care Counselor at Arbor Terrace Fairfax began caregiver support groups to aid families during this incredibly difficult transition; one for families and one for spouses. Both groups are open and free to the public and all information exchanged is completely confidential. The family group is led by a behavioral health nurse and the spouse group is led by a 35+ year geriatric care manager.

“We have a place where the adult caregiver can come and share their story with others,” Young said. “The number of friendships that have formed from this group is just amazing and heartwarming.”

Young and the rest of her staff have witnessed firsthand just how enriching the resident experience can be.

“We always speak with families about the challenges of moving a loved one with dementia,” Young said. “We let them know that while every resident responds differently, we are with them every step of the way. Families have seen their loved ones blossom while in our care.”

These family members of residents at Arbor Terrace Fairfax shared stories of their care giving journeys with their loved ones affected by memory loss.

Diane Norman
Daughter of Mary Lee
My mother is a first-generation Chinese-American. Her parents somehow made sure all six of their children finished college. My mom was a single mother and gave up everything to make sure her three children also had a future. In Asian culture, families don’t put their parents in senior living communities. The decision to move her was heart-wrenching. Mom lived with us for four years, but once she started using a walker, it wasn’t safe. I lived in fear that she’d fall. My husband and I visited 15 different communities before we chose Arbor. This is not a “guilt” thing. It’s a matter of knowing how much time and effort she at least as much time and effort into fi nding the best place for her. Also, having a place where you are confi dent that your loved one is being well cared for is a huge reassurance. We liked Arbor Terrace Fairfax because it’s just memory care. That’s all they do. The staff is all trained in dementia care. The community is a nice size and not too overwhelming for Mom. She can safely navigate on her own.

Lorraine Peck
Retired criminal justice social worker
Niece of Gertrude “Mary Jo” Muir
Gert was a nun for 25 years, but then she left the order to marry and raise two children. She also was a school teacher. Gert was one of ten children and she was the sibling with whom my mom was closest. Gert and I were the ones in the room at the moment Mom passed away. So, Gert was always special to me and my mother. In the last few years, Gert had lived in a nursing home with her husband, who had many health issues. She didn’t need to be there – aside from some memory issues, she was physically healthy. When he passed away last year, she didn’t need to stay in the nursing home. Most of the other residents weren’t as active or as conversational as she was. And we wanted her closer to us. I was ready to move Gert into another community, but then I heard about Arbor Terrace Fairfax. I decided I’d stop by and see what it was about. I was extremely impressed with Arbor Terrace. I like the memory care neighborhoods. Residents with moderate dementia live in one area and those with more severe disease are in another area. No other place we’ve seen does that. Gert has really blossomed at Arbor Terrace. My wife and I visit almost every day, and my wife belongs to the Arbor Terrace book club. We feel at home there.

Ogretta W. Ellis
IT Professional
Daughter of Annie Washington
My brothers and I were fortunate to have a supportive family, and my mother was at its heart. She taught math in the Philadelphia public schools for 35 years. About 10 years ago, Mom started to demonstrate some signs of forgetfulness. We thought it was just aging at fi rst, but it became progressively worse. Four years ago, her dementia progressed to the point where Mom needed to live with us. That worked well for a few years. But then Mom started wandering. She loves to go for a walk, and she’d get lost. A few times the police brought her to our house. They’d ask, “Why was she here alone?” Well, I work full-time and I have an 11-year-old daughter. There was no way someone could stay with her 24 hours a day. I started to educate myself. I decided that assisted living would be the best option for Mom. My year-long search for the right place ended the moment I walked through the doors at Arbor Terrace. I already had a deposit at another place! I called them right away and asked for a refund. I visit Arbor Terrace often. It’s not a chore or a duty. I like talking to the residents and hearing about their journeys. My daughter comes with me and always gets a hug from the residents. She sees these seniors still have more to give.

Read more about Arbor Terrace families online at:

Ashley Claire Simpson is a Marketing Communications Specialist for a local military association, but her real passion is freelance writing for a number of publications, including Fairfax/Alexandria Woman. She has been writing features and human interest pieces since her college newspaper days at the University of Virginia, where she graduated in 2008. Ashley has lived in the D.C.-metropolitan area for most of her life and always relishes the opportunity to learn and write about so many inspirational local women who make a difference in the community - and in the world at large.