Berman Commons Certified as an I’m Still Here® Dementia Care Center of Excellence


Berman Commons Certified as an I’m Still Here® Dementia Care Center of Excellence

After an extensive six-month training and embedding process that encompassed all levels of the team–from dietary and housekeeping to care staff and management–Berman Commons has proudly earned their certification as I’m Still Here® Dementia Care Center of Excellence in partnership with The Hearthstone Institute, the leading non-pharmacological research organization funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Jewish Home Life Communities is the only senior care system in Georgia certified in the I’m Still Here® Approach.

Berman Commons is one of only 25 Centers of Excellence in the country.


What is I’m Still Here®?

I’m Still Here® is a philosophy of memory care based on the belief that a person living with dementia is ‘still here’ and can experience a high quality of life regardless of the degree of memory loss. The I’m Still Here® methodology will be embedded  in our Ackerman Memory Care Neighborhood, but the philosophy also underlies our assisted living residential program as well. This person-centered approach is based on the work of John Zeisel, Ph.D., founder of The Hearthstone Institute and author of I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care.

What Sets Us Apart

The I’m Still Here® approach has been shown to significantly reduce the four A’s of Alzheimer’s: Apathy, Anxiety, Agitation and Aggression — the most common symptoms of dementia. I’m Still Here® combines meaningful activities, specialized communication techniques and an enriched environment to provide engagement, choice and purpose regardless of the level of cognitive challenge. This whole-person approach is designed to use engagement as the “antidote” to challenging behaviors. If a person with dementia is engaged in a meaningful activity, he or she cannot simultaneously be exhibiting problematic behavior. Research-based adaptations enable caregivers to successfully engage people at any stage of the disease process.

Reaching for the Intact Emotional Self

Hearthstone’s approach to care and treatment is based on discovering, understanding, and activating the positive memories that remain in every individual, even as the disease progresses. Our residential environments support individuals’ existing skills and knowledge and support to ensure that our residents retain their memories for as long as possible. We focus on helping residents feel empowered and successful in everything they do. Residents’ own definition of reality is accepted and woven into interactions and conversations. Daily routines empower residents by utilizing procedural memory systems for positive results. Continuous activity experiences promote the sense of belonging to a community and support each resident’s individuality.

The Joy of Living with Purpose

Feeling needed and living with purpose are basic human desires that provide each of us with a feeling of self-worth. Consequently, Hearthstone’s innovative I’m Still Here® approach is designed to provide ongoing opportunities for our residents to contribute to the community by participating in meaningful and purposeful experiences throughout their day. Residents are invited to help with tasks that utilize their skills and interests, including serving meals to each other, choosing topics for study and discussion, sorting and delivering mail, teaching a hobby or skill, sanding a piece of furniture, leading a reading group, or assisting with checking an order of supplies, to name just a few.

Whole Team Approach

Because it is often difficult for people living with a cognitive challenge to voice specific health concerns, our entire team, from nurses and caregivers to dietary and housekeeping staff are being trained in the I’m Still Here® approach. In the training, team members   learn to be vigilant for the slightest discomfort or change in function in each resident. We use a combination of medications, exercise, good nutrition, and an active, engaged lifestyle to provide an optimally healthy environment.

Supportive Environmental Design

By building in memory cues and naturally familiar places, our communities provide physical surroundings that eliminate sources of frustration, and instead support independent actions and personal choice. Throughout the thoughtfully designed interiors there are visually engaging paths to encourage movement and accommodate pacing, access to gardens and outdoor spaces, and physical cues that give residents confidence in orienting themselves and performing everyday activities with minimal assistance from our staff.

Coordinated Non-Pharmacological Treatment

Rather than relying on medical interventions to control behavior, The program uses skilled staff, a well-designed environment and innovative programming to help residents continue to flourish. Hearthstone’s Research Division is continually finding new ways to elicit positive emotions at every point throughout the course of the disease to help those living with memory loss experience better quality of life. The Mayo Clinic uses this approach with their dementia patients.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the I’m Still Here® Approach.


Reprinted with permission from The Hearthstone Institute