September 6, 2017

Artis Senior Living Residential Community Will Open Memory Center Later This Year

POSITIVE PARTNERSHIPS: “Artis was brought about by people who had worked in the memory care field for a long time. We got together, and shared ideas. Our philosophy is ‘Positive Partnerships the Artis Way.’” Mary Underwood, vice president of memory care services for Artis Senior Living, left, is shown with the Artis team, including Amy De Preker, vice president of sales and marketing, second from left.

By Jean Stratton

Dementia is an equal opportunity condition. It can strike anyone. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how rich, or how famous one is.”

Mary Underwood, vice president of memory care services for Artis Senior Living, points out that the company focuses on personalized memory care for patients facing different levels of dementia. She looks forward to the latest Artis residential community, which will open in Princeton Junction in late 2017.

“We’re a new company, having opened in 2014, but we already have seven locations in operation in New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, and Florida, with more in the works,” she said.

Ms. Underwood notes that she has worked in the memory care field for 28 years. “I was 24 years old when I had the opportunity to work in the first memory care unit in Connecticut, and I knew right away that was what I wanted to do.

“This is a population that so many people have given up on,” said Ms. Underwood. “They just see it as part of getting older. But that isn’t so, and what I like so much is that Artis is really focused on the human being and not the disease. What I especially enjoy is when you can give someone a wonderful moment, and help them realize that they can still contribute. The challenge is to overcome the misconception people have about individuals with dementia.”

As the population ages and people live longer, dementia can become an increasing problem, affecting more and more individuals and their families, adds Ms. Underwood. “Fifty percent of people at the age of 85 have some form of dementia, and every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops dementia. Worldwide, it is even more — every three seconds.”

“Also,” she continues, “there are so many different kinds of dementia and different degrees of the condition, but many individuals can still function and contribute to the best of their ability. That underlies the Artis philosophy. We focus on human care, what the individuals can do and who they are, not on the disease and what they can’t do.”

Ms. Underwood notes that while the onset of dementia is more typically seen in people in their late 70s and 80s, it can also be evidenced in individuals as young as 50. At the other end of the spectrum, she says that a newcomer at the age of 104 recently joined the Massachusetts residential community.

Artis may be a new company, she observes, but it includes a staff with 20 years of experience. Many have degrees in social work, administration, and therapeutic recreation specialties. “All our staff have the same Artis training because they all interact with patients. This includes housekeeping, life enrichment (activities), culinary, and so on. All are partners at Artis. All our associates have a voice, and make important contributions to the Artis program.”

Nurses are on site 24 hours a day, she adds, and doctors are always available. Residents may also keep their own doctors if they wish.

The new Artis memory care unit at Princeton Junction will include 64 suites, all private rooms with private bathrooms.

“The community will consist of four neighborhoods,” explains Ms. Underwood. “Each with its own dining room, living room, and kitchen access. Residents can go to the kitchen for a snack at their convenience. We will also have a social hour with refreshments. Dining tables are set up for four to 10 people, and we find that higher-functioning individuals often help those who are less able.”

Residents may visit their families and even go on trips and vacations with relatives. The idea is to give them as much opportunity to be as active and engaged as possible.

“I am so encouraged when I can see what the residents can accomplish,” notes Ms. Underwood. “We have a variety of activities to help them continue to be engaged. For example, music and photography. We also offer the ‘I’m Alwrite’ letter-writing program. They can write letters to their friends and family. One woman began writing to a childhood friend, and they can also write memoirs and poetry.”

“We want them to be able to participate and contribute to the best of their ability,” said Ms. Underwood. “It’s so important that people feel they have a purpose, can still connect and interact, and be successful. Our residents can also be part of the job program, such as greeting new residents, helping with transition, with tours, and if they are able, contribute to service organizations as volunteers. They can wrap Christmas gifts, have pen-pal programs, and interact with kids.

“We also take residents to restaurants, arrange times with kids, and have pet therapy visits. They have a voice in our community regarding the food menu, whether associates should wear costumes at Halloween, and other decisions.”

Careful attention is paid to every detail concerning residents’ individuality, adds Ms. Underwood. “We honor relationships. When a former firefighter became a resident, we arranged for a special welcoming committee, which included local firefighters, to come in and say hello.

“Another time, we videotaped one of the residents singing Happy Birthday to her daughter, and then we sent it to the daughter. She said it was the best present she could possibly have had.”

Ms. Underwood also points out the many times residents share special moments with the staff. “They give us so much in return. When my daughter went off to college, some of the residents sat down with me, and said everything would be fine. They were sharing a life experience, and though they may not remember a specific event, they can remember the emotion.

“It recalls the poet Maya Angelou’s quote when she said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”

Reservations and deposits are currently being accepted for the Princeton Junction location, and Ms. Underwood said that two payment programs are available. “One is according to the level of need, and this cost can change as the needs change. The second is an all-inclusive plan, which is one price regardless of need, and which does not change as needs change.”

“We looked at demographics, and we felt our Artis program could benefit people in the Princeton Junction area,” she said. “We are set apart because we focus exclusively on memory care and by our positive philosophy. We take great care to customize and personalize our program for each individual. In addition, one of the big differences regarding Artis is that we build, we own, and we manage our community. We also try to make it very home-like. Residents are encouraged to bring their own belongings. The community and programs are definitely designed around the residents.”

For more information, call (609) 454-3360, or visit the website at