29 Feb “A Better Way”: A Q&A with Hubbard Hill’s Debbie Carriveau
Six months ago, Hubbard Hill opened its new Living Wisdom Center, a memory care facility that re-envisions what dementia care means. This week, Executive Director Debbie Carriveau shared her thoughts on the impact the Living Wisdom center is having, and on Hubbard Hill’s partnership with Memory Bridge.
Our neighbors are experiencing true freedom, fewer limits, love and relationship and purposeful living . . .
Hubbard Hill calls its new Living Wisdom Center a “revolution in memory care.” In the six months since it opened, is there a story you’ve heard or interaction you’ve seen that really encapsulates for you what the Center’s philosophy is all about?
I can say without hesitation the impact on the way people are being re-membered into community and are embraced as a vital part of their community is just not experienced at this level in other conventional memory care settings. Our neighbors are experiencing true freedom, fewer limits, love and relationship and purposeful living by contributing to each other’s lives and to their neighborhood community. The tangible quality of life improvements they have experienced have been validated by family and loved ones through testimonials such as: “I got my mom back,” “He’s so engaged in life again,” “My mom is happier than I have seen her in years,” “The love my mom feels here is unbelievable,” “My mom is baking again,” “She’s playing her piano again” . . . it has been a transformative experience all around.
How did the idea for the Living Wisdom Center come about?
When our leadership team came together, we all were committed to do things differently. We did not come together to “fix” what we felt was broken in conventional care settings—our desire was to reinvent from the ground up. Our mission was to raise the bar and to embrace those living with dementia as valuable members of community. We looked at best practices, therapeutic connection to nature, and innovative design to create a natural environment of family households in which our neighbors could thrive.
We wanted to transform the industry’s mindset regarding dementia being a “life-ending” journey to our perspective that it is “life-changing.” People with dementia continue to be amazing, loving, and valuable members of our community. When we look through their lens and not ours, we will continue to meet them where they are and understand who they are at their core. And they will be nurtured, loved, and have a true sense of belonging.
Everything we have created in their homes is to return the decision of how each person’s life is lived each day to that person. Our mantra is “My day, My way.”
What is day-to-day life like for the people living at the Living Wisdom Center? How does it differ from conventional living situations for people with dementia?
Our neighborhood consists of four small households of nine people. Each household has permanently assigned caregiver staff who are trained and credentialed dementia care specialists. The care specialists and the neighbors in each household function as a family and participate together in the life of each household.
Our people are not forced to be passive observers, but are active participants in their lives. Everything we have created in their homes is to return the decision of how each person’s life is lived each day to that person. Our mantra is “My day, My way.”
The front doors of each household opens into a 10,000-square-foot secured, enclosed atrium providing an outdoor area full of flowers, trees, and plants, a functional yard space, and a walking loop. This is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with a comfortable climate maintained in all seasons. People are free to move in and out of their households through their front doors and able to visit neighbors “across the street.’’ They do not experience the constant “can’t and don’t” limitations placed on them in conventional care settings. They are provided with opportunities to engage in purposeful tasks and programs based on their own Life Stories and what created meaning in their lives before dementia.
How did Hubbard Hill first discover Memory Bridge? How has the relationship between the organizations evolved?
I was granted a scholarship to attend the Memory Bridge international retreat a few years ago. This was a transformational experience in reframing my perspective and the way I approached care for people with dementia. I felt it was critical to share that perspective of relationship and the re-membering of persons with dementia into a life where they were loved, accepted, valued and felt like they belonged. To that end the Hubbard Hill leadership team approached Michael and Memory Bridge to be a part of our transformation into becoming “a better way” of caring.
I felt it was critical to share that perspective of relationship and the re-membering of persons with dementia into a life where they were loved, accepted, valued and felt like they belonged.
There are a lot of organizations offering education to those who care for people with dementia. What drew you to Memory Bridge’s approach, and what makes it a good partner for Hubbard Hill?
It was evident from our conversations with Michael and our observations of his teaching—and how he approaches relationships with persons experiencing dementia—that his perspective was aligned with our value system and our faith-based lens of who we have been called to be in this work. Like Michael, we see as central the need of persons with dementia to be valued, loved, embraced, and surrounded by community.
Our future vision is to emerge as an education and resource center for all resources in caring for those with dementia, and we feel Memory Bridge can assist us in that vision.
Are there any new projects or initiatives you have coming up that you’d like to share?
The future of the Living Wisdom Center is to become a focal point of dementia care excellence. We plan to create a full-campus resource center, expanding the dementia care facility, supporting research, and offering evidence-based data, caregiver resources, training and certification, education, and leadership in quality dementia care for the region, state, and country.
Excerpts from an email Q&A on February 27, 2020. Text has been edited and condensed for concision and readability.
To learn more about Debbie Carriveau and the Living Wisdom Center, click here.