Not all care centers have prohibitions against dementia patients. Some, in fact, are designed specifically for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One example is Arbor Springs, in West Des Moines, where residents live in six small “neighborhoods,” each with its own living room, dining room and outdoor courtyard. Just nine residents live in each neighborhood.

Katie Parker, program director at Arbor Springs a West Des Moines, Iowa, community for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, leads Enid Blevins, 96, in a memory game during activity time on Aug. 18, 2017. Blevins is a retired English professor. Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

A community kitchen attached to each dining room allows snacking at any time of day, and is designed to be just like a kitchen at home. Families are encouraged to personalize the cozy private bedrooms of their loved ones.

Traditional nurses stations are notably absent, in keeping with the homelike feel of Arbor Springs, and residents can use iPads to play games that help with their memory and word recognition and have iPods with personalized playlists of music.

Monica Kuehl, director of marketing, said the music enables those living with dementia to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.

“It’s very therapeutic,” she said.

Two cats roamed the halls of Arbor Springs on a recent visit, part of a program with an animal rescue organization in which the cats live on-site to interact with the residents.

Barb Blevins of West Des Moines leads a cooking club in which residents can help make treats, such as trail mix, or help with baking pies, while Blevins asks them to share their memories about the tasks.

“It’s amazing what they can remember,” she said.

Residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease play with fidget spinners as a form of therapy and general activity at Arbor Springs, a West Des Moines, IA, facility that establishes communities for people needing dementia care. Photo taken Aug. 18, 2017. Credit: Cindy Hadish, for IowaWatch

Her mother-in-law, Enid Blevins, 96, a retired college professor, has lived at Arbor Springs since Dec. 31, 2016, and seems to be happy there, she noted.

The cutting-edge amenities come at a price: currently $290 per day, or nearly $106,000 annually, and all residents are private-pay.

Blevins said the cost is worth it.

“It’s her money,” she said. “She and her husband worked hard and saved all their life and she deserves this.”

Blevins added that she is a firm believer in God, “and this is God’s plan.”


Freelance journalist Cindy Hadish is an Iowa native and experienced health reporter who has written for a long list of magazines, newspapers and other media outlets. Find her on Twitter: @HomegrownIA and on her website:

This report is a collaboration of IowaWatch and HuffPost, as part of HuffPost’s 2017 “Listen to America” tour.
Additional resource: Alzheimer’s Association, East Central Iowa Chapter

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