Sunrise Senior Living purposely appoints amenities

Publish Date:

Friday, June 24, 2011

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News Organization:

Inside Tucson Business

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One’s first impression of Sunrise Senior Living — as observed in the details throughout the facility — is of comfort and hominess. It’s an approach based not only on aesthetics, but on research offering insight into what makes seniors feel their best.

Sunrise at River Road Assisted Living and Memory Care opened in February 2008 as part of a nationwide company founded 30 years ago and now based in McLean, Va. While each of its communities may have some differences (Tucson is the only location offering gluten-free items on its menu), the philosophy remains the same everywhere.

“At Sunrise, assisted living is a personalized approach for seniors who value independence, but need help with small tasks,” explained Deb Rossi, director of community relations for the property.

That’s achieved through designated care managers who get to know the residents on a personal level, and by making the environment family friendly.

“We have an open-door policy. This is the residents’ home. They can bring in family, kids, pets. We even have a toy box and chalkboard. We don’t want the residents to do anything different than at home,” Rossi stated.

On the two assisted living floors, which Rossi calls “neighborhoods,” there are two licensed practical nurses at all times, in addition to care managers. Photographs of those on duty each day are displayed in visible locations so the residents know whom to look for if they need help.

Rossi pointed out that artwork in the common areas and lining the halls is deliberately chosen for each floor.

“We treat all residents with dignity. Artwork helps them identify where they are. There’s different artwork on each floor, so if they get off the elevator and there are animals on the wall, they know if they’re in the wrong place,” she said.

The reminiscence neighborhood, also known as the memory care area, is located on the third floor. There, paintings tend to depict mostly children and families.

“It’s a comfortable, secure environment designed to look like home,” said Rossi.

The floor includes a remembrance room filled with items intended to keep the memory alive, such as old photos, a vintage wedding gown, a World War II military uniform and baby dolls for the residents to hold.

Also found in the memory care area is the Snoezelen room. The word is derived from two Dutch words meaning to seek out and to relax. It represents a space containing multiple sensory elements intended to calm anxiety. Research has shown that such an environment can be a beneficial tool for Alzheimer’s patients, soothing them and improving their mood.

For their Snoezelen rooms, the Sunrise Living founders, who are from the Netherlands, incorporate a variety of textures, the sound of flowing water, low lighting and soft music.

Throughout the community, residents and visitors find other details that enhance mood.

“We champion quality of life. We have fresh flowers, home-cooked food, family albums with pictures from our activities and music. The music is what Mom used to listen to,” Rossi noted.

She believes that once folks tour the community, it sells itself. But the challenge is getting them through the door in the first place. Sunrise holds occasional events that are open to the public, but Rossi intends to boost that number, as they’ve been effective marketing tools.

In March, the Tucson facility celebrated its three-year anniversary with an open house that included tours, tasty grilled treats prepared by the head chef and entertainment on the patio by vocalist Joe Bourne.

“It was an intimate setting; I was pleased with the outcome,” Rossi said.

Another approach she uses to introduce the public to Sunrise Living is providing meeting rooms to local organizations.

“We want people from the community to use the space. We have the theater room and the back patio when the weather is nice,” Rossi said.

Sunrise Living’s respite program helps out families who normally care for a loved one at home, but occasionally need time off from care-giving duties.

“It works for when family members go on vacation or need a break for one week to one month,” Rossi explained. She recalled a group who came to Tucson for a wedding. “They didn’t want Mom to be in a hotel, so she came and stayed here. It was a great opportunity — she even had her hair done here.”

This offering has also become a way for potential residents to give the community a trial run.

“Many permanent residents started with a short term stay and they got to know the care level. With short term, they get a fully furnished suite, emergency response system, food, laundry, all the amenities as a permanent stay,” said Rossi.

She stressed that today’s assisted living facilities aren’t what they used to be.

“This generation of seniors only know the nursing home feel with white walls and six beds to a room. At Sunrise Living, we have a social hour everyday at 3:00; five days a week entertainment comes in. We try to promote the food aspect because it’s great. Residents often say this is like a resort.”

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