“People with Alzheimer’s don’t conform. They don’t really fit in. If you try to put them into an environment where they’re expected to conform and remember rules, it’s just not going to work. So make the environment and your approach flexible,” Tom Hlavacek, Executive Director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said at the grand opening of the Mätterhaus Memory Care Community.
And Mätterhaus is doing just that. I had the chance to visit the new facility last week, as it was built by one of our Dementia Care Specialists customers, Capri Communities, an organization that's leading the way in innovative, person-centered senior living and memory care here in southeastern Wisconsin. Designed by PDC Midwest, an architectural firm that specializes in creating dementia-friendly environments using its exclusive Sensory Design 5™ philosophy, Mätterhaus is customized to meet the needs of residents who have Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions.
The core of its flexible design is its figure-eight layout, which allows residents to explore. While many people consider “wandering” a problem, exploration can actually be very therapeutic for a person who has dementia, says Director of Assisted Living for Capri and Dementia Capable Care Certified Instructor Andy Lange. Mätterhaus's figure-eight design gives residents the freedom to stroll unhindered, and it helps avert the anxiety and distress of running into dead-ends. It also encourages strengths and abilities—such as walking—that, for residents' physical and emotional health, should be nurtured, maintained, or even increased.
The facility is also designed to help residents with navigation. Two neighborhoods, Country Side and City Side, make up the loops of Mätterhaus’s figure eight, and they feature unique color designs and visual cues. Residents can also find their way around the community with the help of landmark-like memory stations with themes such as gardening, sports, and childcare, each designed to spark remembrance and encourage activity. Additionally, outside each room is a memory box that families can fill with a loved one's cherished objects and mementos. Each room at Mätterhaus also has a digital picture frame that friends and families can upload photos to.

Another innovative feature of the facility is its multisensory lounge. This is a soothing room where residents can take a break if they’re upset or agitated. The lighting effects, colorful bubble tubes, adaptable computer software, customizable sounds, and tactile de-stress devices provide stimulation to help residents take their minds off of triggers and regain a sense of comfort and safety. Sensory rooms, or Snoezelens, are often used with people who have autism or other developmental differences, and are now being used more and more as therapeutic environments for people who have dementia.

Mätterhaus also features a wellness center where physical and occupational therapists work with residents to help them improve and maintain mobility, activity, and functioning with daily tasks.

Additionally, Certified Instructor Andy Lange is training his colleagues in the Dementia Capable Care program, CPI’s course for care partners and therapists to help them improve function, safety, and quality of life for people who have dementia. Rooted in the Warchol Best-Abilities Care Model℠, Dementia Capable Care training helps staff discover and honor a person's interests and abilities. “It’s a mindset,” Lange says. “It’s a paradigm shift in how you think about dementia, focusing on abilities, rather than deficits.”
We’re glad our training is a part of Mätterhaus’s flexible and innovative approach to care. Congratulations to the staff at Capri, and thank you for your commitment to providing abilities-based, person-centered, high-quality dementia care!

Photo Gallery

Images left to right: Gardening memory station; memory box; childcare memory station; sports memory station; CPI staff with Capri Communities’ Andy Lange on the right; digital picture frame; multisensory lounge; Mätterhaus’s therapy team.


Dementia Capable Design Resources