Extending the Olive Branch

Memory care community enhances residents’ quality of life.
"We're a nice, small community," says Tessa Browning, director of Olive Branch Estates.

About 5.3 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Of Americans age 65 and older, 11 percent have Alzheimer’s disease, and about 14 percent of people age 71 and older have dementia.

When Olive Branch Estates opened in Chanhassen in June 2015, many residents found the care they needed in the small, family-like environment that emphasizes helping individuals with depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s. “We’re really fostering our own culture here,” director Tessa Browning says. “We have a really great staff. They’re willing to do what needs to be done in the best interest of the residents.” Residents can choose from studios, one-bedroom units with kitchenettes and two-bedroom apartment homes.

“What makes us unique is that we're a premier memory care facility, so we're designated as the best option of memory care. We want to be geared toward proper, efficient and continuing education,” Browning says. “When you have assisted living with memory care, sometimes the staff isn't always trained to work with dementia-specific related residents, so that is unique in that we are all prepared to work with dementia-related diagnoses.”

Nancy, an Eden Prairie resident, transitioned her mother to Olive Branch Estates from another senior living community when she noticed signs in her mother’s health that concerned her.

“[My mom’s] independent apartment was a long distance from the dining hall and activities, and walking that far was becoming more difficult. Mom began to isolate herself to her apartment. I was also stopping by every evening to make sure she was going to bed," she says.

Nancy discovered Olive Branch Estates and appreciated that it is a smaller facility focused on memory care. In the spring, there were 24 units and 22 residents.  “The nursing assistance is personal, very caring and consistent,” Nancy says. “When Mom gets confused about day, date or time, the staff is wonderful at reminding her, and if the confusion causes anxiousness, they are keyed into using activities to refocus and calm her.”

“Therapeutic recreation is a tool we use on a daily basis to help with anxiety and depression,” Browning says. “Sometimes it's something as simple as taking them for a walk if they’re agitated, hand massages with aromatherapy or music that we know will resonate with that specific individual. It's important to know your residents first and foremost because that's what leads to success with therapeutic recreation techniques.”  

Additional resources at Olive Branch Estates include a staff member who specializes in therapeutic services for the residents and educating the regular full-time staff on successful strategies to use with residents facing depression, anxiety or memory care issues. Several physicians’ groups visit the facility regularly to assess current medications or recommend additional treatments.

Nancy has seen significant improvements since her mother transitioned to Olive Branch Estates. “[It’s great] seeing Mom blossom and being more involved in daily life, instead of hiding in her apartment and not feeling like she could only trust me to help her in all of her cares. The most rewarding part for me is having trust in the staff at Olive Branch knowing that she is well cared for.”

Respite care options

Taking care of family members who provide loved ones with assistance is also part of Olive Branch Estates’ mission. Its Respite Care Program allows temporary residents to live in private, furnished studios for as little as five days. They’ll receive personalized care from staff, be able to interact with others experiencing similar health issues and participate in activities designed to match personal abilities and needs, all while in a safe environment.
The program allows for care-giving family members to spend time with other family and friends—while knowing their loved one with dementia is being cared for by a trained team.