By Veronica Edwards
Shocked at her mother’s diagnosis of dementia six years ago, Lisa Machamer instantly sought professional care to meet her mother’s growing level of need. Machamer found that the 1:12 ratio in memory care couldn’t meet all her mom’s personal basics, so she sought to create an option for people like her mom, where they could have all their needs met and maintain their dignity of independent life. Machamer wanted residents to feel at home in a friendly neighborhood where the community stays together through the compassion for the residents. Thus, Virginia House was founded, named after Machamer’s mother.
Virginia House is a dementia-care residential facility offering families an alternative to institutional memory care. In a comfortable family-style living environment, nurturing caregivers provide personalized care by anticipating the needs of the residents and assisting them. This newly remodeled home with private bedrooms and baths offers its capable and compassionate 24-hour care staff the ability to serve its residents in a 3:1 senior-to-caregiver ratio.
Machamer focuses on mothers and grandmothers because Virginia House is designed in her mother’s image of clean, neat, organized and family oriented. The mother mentality inspired home allows the mothers to feel at home in an environment designed especially for them.
The house can accommodate up to three female residents, enabling Machamer to maintain the smaller ratio. The constant help and attention in this environment gives the residents the same feeling of familiarity as their previous location. “This care style is a win-win for everyone; the care needs of the residents and the care expectations of the family are met, and we can give proper care in the home and connect with the residents,” Machamer says.
Machamer focuses on activities that the residents enjoy. For example, one resident, Ms. Crystal, likes playing beanbag toss for cookies. Another resident, Ms. Reeba, is losing her ability to talk, but her caregivers learn what her cues are to know what she needs. Machamer says, “I want my caregivers to be able to slow down and take the time to get to know how to truly care for our residents. Everything we do is about trying to make them smile; here we care about the smiles.”
The four tenets that Machamer follow include the care setting, ratio, approach and connection. The house is designed to meet the residents’ needs and the ratio is small. “For approach, we stay below them, making eye contact to give them control,” Machamer says. “We respect their personal space.” Care connection is bonding with the residents and being with them in their moment. “If they are talking about being on the farm, we are on the farm with them,” she says.
Family is another important aspect of Virginia House. The families are very involved because personal caregivers can’t replace family. Machamer encourages families of the residents to visit and always welcomes them. It gives the families peace of mind, taking off the pressure of care so they can truly enjoy their mom’s company. “I wanted to do something my mom would be proud of and I wish she could have had it. In the end, our care is based off of ‘How do you treat mom?’” Machamer says.
The staff at Virginia House is a special group. They are a team, like a family, because they enjoy coming to work and respect each other. Machamer ensures each caregiver has experience working in a home, specifically caring for a loved one so each can relate to the residents’ situations. Machamer believes that “you can train skills, but you can’t train kindness and compassion.” Before a new staff member is hired, she determines if she would let the candidate care for her own mother.
In her spare time, Machamer likes to walk or bike around the neighborhood or the Noland Trail with her husband and spend time with her family who lives nearby. Machamer‘s goal is for everyone to slow down and take time to “enjoy the day.” She finds out from the families what gives each resident joy and allows those feelings to develop.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 107 Lola’s Dr., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Lisa Machamer, owner