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Children, animals, plants and more help residents at the Sheyenne Care Center feel more at-home, more relaxed and less stressed thanks to a program called KAPPS.
KAPPS, which stands for Kids, Aromatherapy, Pets, Plants and Sound, was started at the center in 2000 and has been helping residents since.
This program is based off the belief that "having living things in a nursing home, like live plants, children, pets, things like that, really help to bring a sense of belonging to the residents," said Angi Hansen, music therapist for the SCC. "(Residents) can also share their love with the children and their pets and feel useful."
The program makes the facility feel more home-like, too, Hansen said. "The Sheyenne Care Center has always been about that. Our philosophy is to be home-like and resident centered, and this whole program really fulfills that in each step."
She said the program is based on the Eden Alternative, a philosophy developed by Dr. Bill Thomas and his wife in the early 1990s to deinstitutionalize long term care facilities by alleviating boredom, helplessness and loneliness.
Most residents enjoy at least some parts of this program. Hansen said Care Center staff try to find out what residents are interested in so they know what part of the program suits them best. Residents who had cats growing up might benefit most from playing with the facility cats. Those who enjoyed gardening throughout their life may desire to take care of the plants.
There are several parts to this program, all offering unique benefits to residents. Each component is run by a committee.
The Rugrats Team
The Rugrats Team encourages programming and interactions with children and the residents. They encourage the residents to think of a time when their children were young.
Hansen said when they first started this program, the Care Center had a daycare on site, but as it grew, the Valley City Children's Center daycare moved downtown.
"They still do things with us," she said. "We get together for special activities usually once every two or three months, but we also have children that come into the Care Center from the school system."
Staff sometimes bring their babies and children to interact with the residents as well.
Activities with children bring out a more playful side of the residents, and interacting with them gives residents an opportunity pass on wisdom from their many years as a parent and grandparent, Hansen said.
The Sound Waves Team
As a music therapist, Hansen said she knows the value of working with music. The Sound Waves Team provides boom boxes and selections of music in the resident common areas. According to Hansen, music can lower blood pressure, lower basal metabolism and decrease tension. It can also energize and influence by causing neurons in the brain to act faster.
"A lot of times it is stressful for the residents to live here, and so (music therapy) helps alleviate some of that stress," Hansen said.
Another part of the sound program are two fountains at the center that give residents a "natural sound" experience.
"Watching fish is very soothing and calming," Hansen said, so that's why the Care Center has aquariums available for residents to enjoy.
Fish aquariums can spark up conversation among residents and staff, as they stimulate the mind of the viewer, Hansen said. "The colors, motions and sounds can be very relaxing."
LaDonna Hammond, unit secretary who helps with the program, said, "And it just looks more like home. Most people had cats or dogs or plants or fish (before moving into the Care Center)."
The Care Center became home to a dog in 2001, when black labrador Sadie went there as a puppy to stay and interact with the residents. Sadie had to be put to sleep two years ago when she developed some health issues, but now the center has several cats.
"The residents loved having (Sadie) around. She'd do her rounds, and go into the rooms of the people who she knew who would benefit from her," Hammond said. "She just seemed to know who needed her."
Although there's no longer a dog living there full time, employees bring their dogs for residents to enjoy.
When residents see cats and dogs in the facility, it gives them an opportunity to remember their own pets and often times share stories and memories of the family dog or farm cats, Hammond said.
"We have a resident right now who has a chair in her room, and (she) and her family have a sign on it that says 'Harriet's Throne,'" Hammond said. Harriet is the name of one of the Care Center's cats.
Pets also boost staff morale, the ladies agree.
"Makes it kind of a neat place to work, because I don't have to worry about having pets at home because they're all here," Hansen said.
Hammond added," And it's fun to have someone waiting at the door for you when you come to work so happy to see you."
Bird watching offers many of the same benefits as pet therapy. The colors, movements and sounds appeal to the senses. The Care Center installed four aviaries throughout the facility after former staff member Florence Sandness donated money to use on the residents.
"Watching something from nature just seems to calm our spirits," Hansen said. "There's many residents that will watch the birds. It's kind of fun to watch the birds splash around and take their baths."
A simple connection to nature can help reduce feelings of loneliness and anxiety and can also be a time of peaceful contemplation. Not only that, but aviaries provide an interesting focal point for family visits, Hansen said.
The sense of smell is very powerful. It has the ability to affect mind and emotions. Essential oils can stimulate parts of the brain that influence physical, emotional and mental health. There are oils, lotions and sprays kept in the nurses station of each floor that can be used to help residents.
"We do find that the lavender goes pretty quick around here, because it's a very calming scent," Hammond said. "If we have a resident that's having a tough time, even just sitting down and rubbing the lavender lotion into their hands seems to work well with some people."
Lemon oil works as an appetite stimulant, and orange oil can be anti-depressive.
Moreover, the Care Center has scent diffusors throughout the facility that are meant to smell like home.
"We try to use home-like smells. In the fall, the ones I've been using are apple pie and pumpkin," Hammond said. "Because when you walk into a home, one of the first things you notice is the smell, and that also will bring back memories of baking pies and making cookies."
The Bloomers Team does a variety of activities with plants. They take care of plants inside and outside and get the residents involved by allowing them to water and help transplant.
During the springtime, the activity department, other staff and a community group from Our Savior's Lutheran Church plants flowers outside with help from the residents.
Andy Anderson, a resident of the SCC, said he really enjoys having the animals there. As one of the resident cats, Bo, lied stretched out on a desk behind him, Anderson recalled when his family had cats, dogs, chickens, hamsters and fish.
This year Anderson helped plant some plants, which he enjoyed, because it brought back memories of when he'd work with plants with his mom.
Resident Annabelle Tharaldson also enjoys the animals and interacting with the children.
"I love all kinds of animals," she said. "I always had a little puppy; I love puppies."
Tharaldson said she enjoys the cats too, which remind her of her sons' and daughter's kittens.
Tharaldson, who writes the Dazey News for the Times-Record, does all kinds of activities with children, including making jewelry, sewing, embroidery work and more.
"I love the birds as long as they stay in the cage," she said with a laugh.
Read this story in Monday's Times-Record.