The Peaks at Old Laramie Trail executive director Matt Wistreich says memory care and maintaining a physically and mentally active lifestyle will be a major focus when it opens in August. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest

Lafayette facility’s aim: Sunshine for twilight years

LAFAYETTE — A new senior-living center will aim to provide a balance between autonomy and assisted living when it opens this summer,

The Peaks at Old Laramie Trail Senior Living is rising on an eight-acre campus about two miles south of downtown Lafayette. Its executive director, Matt Wistreich, has been working in senior care since 1988, and got into the industry because he wanted to foster relationships similar to those he had with his grandparents and other senior citizens.

This latest endeavor, which is scheduled to open in August, will have 68 suites that cater to a variety of needs — studio apartments, one- or two-bedroom assisted-living apartments and private memory-care rooms. Fifteen already have been booked, Wistreich said.

That last function, memory care, will be a major focus of Peaks when it opens. Wistreich said Peaks will employ what it calls a “positive approach” to caring for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. That approach is based around the research of occupational therapist Teepa Snow, whose methods involve ways of connecting with dementia patients when they lose communication and motor functions, and adapting care to the day-by-day fluctuations of a dementia patient’s brain.

Peaks’ memory-care system classifies different stages of dementia as gemstones. “Sapphire” is the first stage, where patients may experience mild memory loss or need more time to think and make decisions, but do not actually have dementia or suffer from cognitive impairment. “Diamond” is the first true stage of dementia. Here, patients still are clear-minded and sharp, and signs of dementia may be difficult to notice because the patient is so good at hiding them and because those around them can instinctively fill in their cognitive gaps.

It progresses from there. The “emerald” stage is where patients lose the ability to care for themselves and struggle to comprehend what is happening around them. “Amber” and “ruby” deal with a rapid loss of cognitive and motor function, and the final stage, “pearl,” comes in when the patient’s brain loses its ability to control the body. It is so named because the patient may have moments of awareness, like a pearl emerging from an oyster.

Understanding the dynamic needs of dementia patients “brings confidence and lessens anxiety for all involved,” Wistreich said. “Notice on the four in-between stages the importance of adapting approaches and communication style to achieving successful care and the best quality of life for the individual patient. The farther along with the journey, the greater the changes in care techniques are needed to ensure the overall well-being of the individual.”

Part of staving off dementia is maintaining a physically, mentally and emotionally active lifestyle, Wistreich said, and to that end Peaks will attempt to provide options for its residents to stay active, such as an in-house dog park — tentatively called “Central Bark” — and its walking-distance proximity to downtown Lafayette and the nearby Coal Creek trail. Peaks will be pet-friendly for dogs, cats and birds, and also will have an in-house therapy dog. 

Peaks’ location has another benefit; it’s a five-minute drive from Good Samaritan Medical Center. Wistreich said Peaks knows the limits to the care it can provide, so being so close to a major hospital was important.

Peaks is being developed by Integral Senior Living, a company that builds and manages senior living centers. Integral manages 43 properties nationwide, and, including Peaks, has 22 other senior living centers under construction in nine different states.

“We truly value living our culture,” Wistreich said, espousing the 12-point mission statement with which Integral tries to run every center with. We “love communities for everything they are, and everything they are not.”

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