A Place to Call Home at Waterford Place Memory Care

Jun 26, 2024 | Caregivers & Families, Memory Care

Part of our Recreational Therapy team at Waterford Place, Barb Smalligan has both personal and professional experience with dementia. With June being Brain Awareness Month, she is going to share her journey with Waterford Place Memory Care. 

Walking Through a Dementia Diagnosis

My mom lived with dementia for about 14 years, so we experienced nearly every stage of the disease. Dementia is an incredibly difficult diagnosis for the entire family. For many years, my dad was her primary caregiver. He wanted to keep her home for as long as possible and did an incredible job taking care of her. Being a primary caregiver is both physically and emotionally exhausting and as my mom’s disease progressed, we realized she needed more care than our family could provide.

Moving to Waterford Place Memory Care

We wanted to find somewhere that Mom would feel at home, so we toured a number of communities and all I can say is that Waterford Place is just different. From the moment we walked through the doors, we felt like we were being listened to. The team answered all of our questions. Dementia was horrible for my mom – she could be feisty – and they were willing to take on that challenge.

Waterford saw my mom as a person, not just her dementia diagnosis. All places provide care, but at Waterford it doesn’t stop there – they truly care about the individual and treat them with respect and dignity through all stages of life. That makes all the difference for a family member.

Something else that set Waterford Place apart was that they did not have an expert mentality. Waterford recognized that each person living with dementia was unique and should be treated as such. I found this to be especially true with my mom – as her disease progressed, the team was more than willing to try new things to ease her discomfort.

SAIDO Learning was an added bonus at Waterford Place. As a teacher, I feel like SAIDO provides additional depth and gives a sense of community for both the residents and staff.

Family Member to Staff Member

I taught through the pandemic and after coming out of that, I was burnt out and knew that I needed a change. Waterford Place already held such a special place in my heart from when my mom had lived there. Going through dementia with my mom, I know how important life enriching activities are for this population. When this job became available, I just knew it was the change I needed

SAIDO Learning

While SAIDO was a deciding factor in choosing Waterford Memory Care for my mom, I actually never observed her doing a SAIDO session. However, I had researched the program and thought it was fantastic. I became a SAIDO supporter when I became a staff member. This gave me a firsthand look at just how important SAIDO is for our residents. SAIDO not only gives residents the opportunity to engage with the supporter, but also their fellow learner. Fun Fact: A SAIDO session is generally done in a 1:2 setting – meaning there is one supporter (staff member) and two learners (residents). The sessions build confidence and often lead to meaningful conversation, which can trigger memories. My favorite part of SAIDO is when residents share their stories. And I love seeing them smile and even laugh throughout the session!

A key part to how Waterford Place does SAIDO Learning is that it’s not just recreational therapy staff who are supporters. They encourage team members from every department to be part of the program. This helps foster a sense of community and teamwork for the entire staff, which has a positive impact on the residents.


It sounds cliché but enjoy the time that you have with your loved one. And as far as it is safely possible, meet your loved one where they are at in their dementia journey – if one day their dementia has brought them back to childhood, be there with them. I found some value in researching the disease. There is a lot of good information out there and so many stories of hope. When your loved one is first diagnosed, talk to them about what they want life to look like as the disease progresses. What books would they like read to them? Is there a specific genre of music they would like played? When it comes to worship, what type is meaningful to them?

 My advice for someone moving into a senior living community is to tour all levels of care that they provide. This will give you peace of mind, knowing that future needs will be met if needed. Ask questions! Even if you think your question is ridiculous. Lean on the staff – they are there to be part of your support team. I can recall a difficult conversation I had with Ben Leavell, the Executive Director at Waterford Place. At the end of the phone call, he simply said: “We’re praying for your mom and family every day.” That really meant a lot. 

I am so thankful that Mom found her home at Waterford Place. She did not always know who my dad was prior to the move, but for whatever reason, when she moved into memory care, she knew exactly who he was. Waterford Place was home for her and that made all the difference. The presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniable when you walk through the door, because of the prayers from staff and resident families. God is truly doing remarkable things at Waterford Place Memory Care!

If you are interested in learning more about Memory Care at Sunset Senior Communities, visit our website or call to schedule a tour.