The Miami Jewish Health Systems has broken ground on a new type of senior care center with an emphasis on providing care for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia.
"A nursing home is more than a facility that just takes care of people. What Miami Jewish Health is doing is building a small community that's more like real life," said Judy Lusskin, an executive committee member for Miami Jewish Health and also the vice mayor of Golden Beach. "It's not just feeding, bathing, putting [the patients] in a chair, playing some music."
The village is set to be completed by 2020. It will be located at the Miami Jewish Health campus in Little Haiti. Miami Jewish Health received a $15 million donation to continue work on this project from philanthropist and Miami native S. Donald Sussman.
The village will include residences, stores and wellness centers. The 99 residents admitted into it will be given full freedom to walk around the town square and its gardens, giving them as normal a life as possible.
Dr. Marc Agronin, the vice president for behavioral health and clinical research at Miami Jewish Health, hopes that this village will be a safe environment — not just in terms of security but also keeping the patients’ needs in mind.
“We're creating a model based on empathy,” he said, “meaning that we’ve taught [the caregivers] how to be mindful of different aspects of using empathy to understand someone’s needs and strengths and provide care on that basis.”
Dr. Agronin believes that Miami is the perfect place for this kind of community. It has a growing aging population and a high number of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“They become over time dependent on others because of their cognitive impairment, but at the same time they still have a tremendous number of strengths and it's important for both caregivers and the environment in which they live to be able to recognize and leverage those strengths,” said Agronin.
Lusskin believes her husband, Bret Lusskin, who is 80, could greatly benefit from a community like this. Her husband has been suffering from dementia for the past eight years.
“My heart is doing little leaps because we've been anticipating this for so long and it looks like it's finally beginning to happen,” she said.