Design Decisions: Sun-soaked memory care

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Design Decisions: Sun-soaked memory care
Design Decisions: Sun-soaked memory care
At Canyon Valley Memory Care in Green Valley, AZ, the community's approach to caregiving is reflected in its design.

Executive Director Kent Prescott says Canyon Valley subscribes to the Personal Touch approach to memory care, which means that the care plan for every resident is tailored to his or her own personal needs and abilities, history and background. The approach ensures caregivers are assigned to specific residents to help forge a sense of familiarity.

“The Personal Touch philosophy is driven by our mission statement,” Prescott said, “which is, ‘To enrich the lives of our residents, staff and associates through our programs, communications, environment and true commitment.'”

Canyon Valley has 54 private and semi-private rooms, which are divided into three distinct neighborhoods. Interior designer Georgia Pope worked with different themes to match the three neighborhoods. For inspiration she used Arizona's topography to develop the themes of Mountain, Valley and River. The community sits a little south of the Tucson metro area.

Having three distinct neighborhoods gives residents a sense of familiarity with their surroundings, an important part of the Personal Touch philosophy. Pope said she was careful not to duplicate any design elements among neighborhoods.

To complete the sense of familiarity with one's surroundings, Canyon Valley residents are encouraged to bring their own furniture, such as beds, recliners and dressers. This also averts any sense of institutionalization and uniformity.
Pope, who has been designing senior-living facilities for 16 years, says her favorite part is developing artwork for memory care facilities.

“I like to use images that designate different times in a person's life, such as a picture of a little boy and girl to reflect back on childhood. I like pictures of scenery that looks like vacation,” she said.

Pope spends a lot of time picking out frames and mats to display the artwork and coordinating it to match the color schemes of each neighborhood. Fortunately, Canyon Valley's Arizona location and soothing Southwest color scheme is perfectly suited for memory care.

“In Arizona, we did more of a succulent look. I like to create happy environments, so I went with a warm palate,” she says.

Prescott says he appreciates the use of calming colors in memory care, such as light browns, tan and orange. The fact that Arizona typically has 300 days of sunshine, which adds its own warm lighting, doesn't hurt either, he added. “We are very cognizant of color here. In the old days of memory care, they used purples and mauves.”

Both Pope and Prescott cited the aquariums, which are stocked with a variety of colorful fish, as their favorite design feature. The tanks are 48 inches wide and 16 inches deep, and sit on their own platforms in each neighborhood's activity room. Chairs are arranged around them.

“The tanks are very soothing,” Pope said. “Lots of studies show they can help relax residents, but they are stimulating, too.”

Lessons learned

--Building a resident garden can have strong aesthetic and therapeutic effects

--Think twice about starting a construction project during Arizona's “monsoon” season

--The Southwest's lack of humidity can wick the moisture out of poured concrete