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Overlook Green Filling a Need with Memory Care
By Lois Thomson

Overlook Green Senior Living saw a need, and is taking steps to fill it.  Located in the Whitehall area of South Hills, Overlook Green is a senior living community that offers personal care apartments, along with opportunities for short-term stays when caregivers might need a respite.  Soon, it will also be offering Memory Care.

"We saw a need for it," said Executive Director Michelle O’Donnell.  "The biggest reason we were seeing people leaving our community was because we couldn't keep them safe."  As O'Donnell explained, there's a stigma that the only people who need to be in memory care are those who are considered to be an "elopement risk" – meaning they have a tendency toward unsupervised wandering, and therefore need to be in a secured unit.

While O'Donnell agreed that is true to an extent, she added there is more to it than that.  "There's something to be said for residents with dementia who are in a specific dementia-based community, where everything is structured for them.  We have some residents who we can certainly care for in a regular personal care environment, yet they're not thriving because they might be over stimulated, or it might be too big for them.  But when you get them into a smaller unit, the activities are based around residents' memory impairment, and they do thrive a lot more.

Overlook Green Senior Living's Memory Care Center is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion by the beginning of November.  Michelle O'Donnell, executive director, said, "It is going to be a 23-bed secured memory unit.  We took an existing structure and basically took it down to the ground and rebuilt it; it's being completely renovated."  The unit should be available for occupancy by late December or early January.

The program is called the Bridge To Recovery and is Five-Star Senior Living's memory care line.  BTR presents a program of living, rather than a generic set of activities.  Each day's program is specifically designed for the residents' abilities and likes.  For example, if a resident enjoys music or sports or gardening, this unit will provide relevant activities or books that would interest them.  They can also participate in walking groups and have access to exercise classes:  through such therapy, some of their functionality can be restored, and by building on their strengths, they are kept engaged.

O'Donnell commented, "Bridge To Rediscovery has been recognized nationally and is such a great program, so we're excited to implement it at Overlook."  She added that all of the staff who will be in the unit will be completely trained in dementia care – training that is different from the kind that staff receives for residents who are just in regular personal care.

"There is such a need for it," O'Donnell said, "a need not just for a secure unit, but also for a program that goes along with it, and that's what Overlook is going to be offering; what is going to set us apart is a specific program that's completely tailored around residents with memory loss."

For more information, visit www.overlookgreenseniorliving.com or call 412-881-8300.

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