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New program aims to help those with early-stage dementia

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A major company that provides senior living care has remodeled one of its Albuquerque locations to expand the range of services available for those who are living with the early stages of dementia.

Brookdale Tramway Ridge has opened its Clare Bridge Crossings program offered in the newly remodeled third floor of the assisted living and memory care center at 4910 Tramway Ridge in Albuquerque.

The Tramway Ridge location is one of only 11 in the country offer the Crossings program. It is designed to provide a transitional living situation for residents with mild dementia or the early stage of Alzheimer’s who need more care than available in an assisted living situation, but who do not need the level of support available in the Tramway Ridge Clare Bridge memory care unit.

“It’s (the Crossings program) definitely a bridge to continuing care in our community,” said Amber Yarbrough, the Clare Bridge Crossings care coordinator at Tramway Ridge.

Brookdale is a national company with more than 1,100 senior living “communities” in 47 states, including seven in New Mexico. The company began the remodeling project last fall. The third floor was previously an assisted living area.

The whole floor is decorated in calming colors with comfortable furniture that gives a homey, informal feel. There are 24 private rooms, a spa room with an easy-access bathtub, laundry facilities, a garden room, common rooms for socializing and a fully equipped kitchen where residents can do cooking activities.

“The overall idea is to get away from the feel of a typical nursing home,” said Damian Chavez, the executive director.

Many of the individual rooms and the garden room have a direct view of the Sandia Mountains. Gardening is one of the many activities that residents can do, along with art projects, writing personal journals and participating in social get-togethers.

A large, specially equipped touch-screen TV enables residents to watch some of their favorite old shows, see religious services, play games or communicate with friends and loved ones via an internet connection, Chavez said.

Tramway Ridge also has buses to take residents on outings, such as to Isotopes baseball games.

As they become aware of their own cognitive decline, people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can become isolated and depressed, according to information from Brookdale. The Crossings program is designed to help them remain mentally and socially engaged.

Chavez said staff who work with the residents are specially trained in dementia care. They can also help family members meet the needs of a loved one living with dementia.

“We want to be a resource for families … to talk about what to expect and to give information,” Chavez said.