By: Matthew O’Rourke
SOUTHBURY — Ask Dr. Diethelm Boehme where he lives, and you might get a different answer each time.
Perhaps today his memory will bring him back to his native Germany. He’s just as likely to relive a trip to Hungary.
Lisa Ford wants him to see the present as best he can. She turns on a translation app on her iPhone just in case he feels like speaking with her in German today.
“I don’t ever want to lose contact with what he’s trying to tell me,” said Ford, who works as a nurse at The Villa at the Watermark at EastHill. “If he says a word, then I try to clue in to a keyword as to what he’s trying to say.
It wasn’t always that easy for Ford.
Boehme suffers from memory loss, and while he’s lived at the Watermark for more than a decade, only recently did Boehme’s two sons push for him to move to the Villa, a facility designed to help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with their day-to-day lives.
The $2.1 million, 7,024 square-foot assisted living home opened last year at The Watermark at East Hill on East Hill Road. The facility serves 14 people at a time, with private rooms for patients and a courtyard, along with shared kitchen and living spaces.
Since moving to the facility, which is designed like a large house, complete with a fireplace and a dog, Sadie, Boehme’s family said he has begun to relax more and find some ease in remembering things. About a year ago, Boehme began forgetting how to do basic tasks like tying his shoes or even putting them on, and his son, Wolf, worried something worse could happen.
Wolf Boehme said even if his father’s condition never gets much better — and he doesn’t believe it will — he’s happy his father has found a place to relax a little.
Part of the trouble Boehme has is accepting his condition, his son said, since he spent so much of his career helping others figure out their own medical worries.
“He’s much more comfortable being here,” Wolf Boehme said. “He’s gotten to a point where he trusts them to take care of him. It’s a big trust issue to turn yourself over when you’re closed in.”
While the facility has some programs in place for memory loss, the focus is on creating a sense of home.
If patients feel at home, they relax and it makes their day-to-day lives less stressful and easier on their minds, said Michelle R. Bettigole,Watermark’s executive director. “A lot of folks think there’s a big fancy memory program involved, but for a lot of folks with memory impairment, it’s just finding those moments of engagement,” she said. “He is in the moment, and that’s real meaningful, especially if you can’t remember things. It gives him purpose and he feels good about himself. He feels happy.”