Impactful Memory Care: SAIDO Learning® is a hopeful therapy

Impactful Memory Care: SAIDO Learning® is a hopeful therapy

Impactful Memory Care: SAIDO Learning® is a hopeful therapy

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More than a decade ago, Episcopal Retirement Services and Marjorie P. Lee became the nation's first aging-services organization licensed to implement SAIDO Learning®, part of the suite of Living Well Memory Support therapies for those living in memory care households.



“Studies have shown that doing simple reading and math will increase the blood flow to the brain. We have seen residents who have improved in their capacities after doing SAIDO for an extended period,” said Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) Executive Director of Hospitality Services Emerson Stambaugh. Stambaugh, along with Health Services Administrator Anthony Williams, Life Enrichment Director Debbie MacLean, and Memory Care Household Coordinator Hannah McCarren, lead a team of Supporters and Lead Supporters to relaunch SAIDO at the Marjorie P. Lee retirement community.

Within weeks of the relaunch of the non-pharmacological therapy, the team began to notice improvements in the learners’ daily routines. SAIDO has been shown to improve the symptoms of cognitive loss among older adults with dementia. Such improvements include increased social engagement, elevated confidence, enhanced memory and gains in writing and speaking abilities.

“I’ve seen residents who were pretty silent become more confident and more vocal, and I have even had residents correct mistakes that I’ve made as a supporter,” Stambaugh said.

Numerous residents have told ERS team members they feel a positive difference from their SAIDO participation.

Somebody writing out their name might not seem like something big to celebrate. But if that person hasn’t written in months or years, to show a family member they’ve written their name for the first time in a long time is certainly something to celebrate and share.

SAIDO: Innovative Approach

In 2013, ERS and Marjorie P. Lee were selected and trained to implement SAIDO, offering an innovative program to bring hope to those living with dementia.

Stambaugh has participated in the program since its beginning. As a lead supporter, he trains team members who are new to SAIDO, before they work with residents.

The program soon will also be relaunched at Deupree Cottages and be “back to its former glory,” Stambaugh said.

Effective memory care is exceptionally challenging to provide. Given that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 6.5 million new diagnoses every year (a rate expected to increase as the Baby Boomers reach senior maturity), there is a pressing need to find better treatments. SAIDO represents one of the most promising memory-care methods implemented to date.

Exercise for the Brain

As people age, it’s vital to maintain physical fitness, but SAIDO helps people exercise their brains with a learning intervention that emphasizes improving social interaction.

Many providers have focused on the decline when caring for older adults with dementia and managing their symptoms. SAIDO is an opportunity to complement existing therapies and focus on enhancing resident engagement.

Dementia is difficult to treat, though research is ongoing. There is currently no “cure” for dementia. Because different diseases cause dementia, it is unlikely that there will be a single cure. Research is aimed at finding treatments for dementia-causing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

What is SAIDO Learning®?

SAIDO was created by Kumon Institute researchers and Professor Ryuta Kawashima of the Smart Aging International Research Center (SAIRC) at Tohoku University.

SAIDO means "again" in Japanese.

In the SAIDO system, a caregiver (“Supporter”) works with two older adults (“Learners”) by engaging them in a series of precise, simple brain exercises. Some of the exercises are arithmetic-based; others are reading and writing exercises.

The exercises the Supporter provides are designed to stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain — the area associated with decision-making, complex cognitive planning, personality expression, and social behavior moderation. Many researchers believe that dementia-type disorders are caused by dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex.

Learning sessions last 30 minutes and are conducted five times per week. According to SAIDO’s developers, “the object of the therapy is not to teach the material but to engage the Learner in the accomplishment of repeated successful exercises, progressing to new material at the Learner’s own level and pace.”

As Learners proceed through the program, they develop more confidence. They tend to show improvements in performance on standard cognitive function tests like the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Frontal Assessment Battery at Bedside (FAB).

SAIDO has been practiced for more than 18 years in 1,600-plus care centers across Japan, showing increased engagement in over 18,000 older adults. Now, ERS has relaunched the effective SAIDO® Learning system for its residents.

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It’s beneficial to have two learners because they support one another and give each other friendly competition. The dedicated time spent together strengthens relationships between residents and team members.


Enriching Team Member and Resident Relationships

Team members are trained to be supporters during SAIDO sessions with residents, and consistent interactions tend to deepen these relationships. In addition to their therapeutic value, it advances the ERS mission to be of service to one another.

The sessions consist of one team member and two residents. It’s beneficial to have two learners because they support one another and give each other some friendly competition. The dedicated time spent together strengthens relationships between residents and team members.

SAIDO helps promote deep, meaningful relationships while providing the residents with a greater sense of self. The exercise can restore some of the confidence that the disease has taken away from them.

“SAIDO allows us to get to know the residents better, and it lets residents spend time with people they might not see regularly,” said Stambaugh.

Finally, SAIDO also gives residents a positive environment to find success.

“Residents with memory loss are sometimes told things they can’t do. But our culture with SAIDO is that we want to celebrate their good work and efforts. If they are given a piece of art to paint, there is no judging their ability to make a copy of what they see. We are celebrating their version of it,” Stambaugh said.

SAIDO helps promote deep, meaningful relationships while providing the residents with a greater sense of self. The exercise can restore some of the confidence the disease has taken away from them.

If you are looking for residential memory care options or memory support services, we are here to help. Contact us at your convenience to learn more about how our households can help people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia lead more comfortable and engaged lives.

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Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge has been Content Marketing Specialist for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) since early 2022. He writes articles, blogs and other information to inform people about things happening at ERS’ retirement communities of Marjorie P. Lee an... Read More >

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