From the BlogContact Us

Villa Serene is Asking for Your Help!

We hope you have enjoyed visiting our website and looking at the pictures of our wonderful assisted living home. We care very deeply about each one of our residents and appreciate the opportunity to be of service is such a caring and special way.

We would like anyone interested in learning more about Villa Serene to know that we hope to add more residents in the immediate future. We can accommodate a maximum of ten.

We invite you to speak with your family, friends, neighbors, community, churches and other places where you regularly engage in activities to inquire about those who might benefit from our loving home here in the West Valley area. We are prepared to offer a finder’s fee to anyone who refers someone who does become a full-time resident.

While this offer may change in the future, we greatly appreciate your assistance at the present time. Thank you in advance for helping us continue in the work we have devoted ourselves to for the last 15 years. Please contact us with any inquiries or to schedule a tour. Thank you.

Image used is from:
Google Images

2017 © Norma-Jean Strickland

Spring is Happening at Villa Serene!

It’s not even officially Spring 2017 yet, but it’s already happening in our back yard!
Take a look and enjoy!

Images used are from:
My personal camera

2017 © Norma-Jean Strickland

What does “old” feel like?

Many people mistakenly believe that an old person’s skin feels like dry leather. It could, depending on the type of work they’ve done. Mostly, though, aging skin feels like it looks – fragile. It’s also softer than you might expect.

The way an older person holds your hand varies as much as how people shake hands when greeting. Sometimes it’s a firm grip or just a tentative grasp.

This is a recent photo of my father’s hands. He’ll be 91 years old in mid-July this year. He doesn’t have arthritis. He has exercised almost daily since he retired 30+ years ago and has been fairly conscientious when it comes to eating a healthy diet. He’s a source of inspiration for aging well. His body is physically strong, but he seems to be moving more slowly and sleeping longer hours with each passing day.

It’s not easy watching someone you’ve known your entire life begin to vanish. I find myself filled with conflicting emotions simultaneously and remind myself not to feel guilty about any of these feelings. Life is filled with unending cycles we’re all familiar with, at least intellectually. It’s only when you’re confronted with reality head-on that you learn where your strengths and vulnerabilities reside. It makes me take a good look at my own hands.

Image used is from:
My personal property

2017 © Norma-Jean Strickland

The Unexpected Benefits of Meditation and Dementia

In 2013, my father was diagnosed with mild dementia. Fast forward to 2017. He is actually in much better shape now than he was even two years ago. I attribute that to a change in medication, as well as a positive change in his living environment. He has been a full-time resident of Villa Serene since mid-August 2016. The staff here are all amazing, kind and compassionate and I am deeply grateful for everything they do.

My father was the third of four boys, all born two years apart. They lived on a 300-acre farm in rural Virginia. So, he grew up spending a tremendous amount of time outside, most particularly sitting under magnificent oak trees. He tells countless stories of spending much time under these beloved trees.

My father will be 91 in mid-July this year. He is physically quite strong, albeit emotionally fragile. That said, he has always enjoyed a rich inner life because he is a retired minister. He actually took early retirement because he couldn’t handle organized religion anymore! I attribute part of that to my own spiritual journey, which has explored everything beyond the mainstream.

When my father retired to Prescott, AZ in 1986, he began a membership with Silver Sneakers. He devoted himself to daily exercise, which has continued to this day. I am convinced that this is the primary reason he is in such wonderful shape compared to so many others his age who also suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. These two ailments are quite different, but that is not the purpose of this short story. (See other blog article posted here.)

As mentioned, my father lives here at Villa Serene Assisted Living, which is in a gated community about ten miles from where I live. It is a single-story home that is owned by my former next door neighbor, who is a native of Poland. So all the décor is quite lovely, homey and European. Because it is a family owned business, the number of full-time residents is limited to ten or less. My father is not the oldest resident, but he is the only one not confined to a wheelchair.

There is a lovely back yard with beautiful fruit trees, flowering bushes, a fountain, swing, walkway and several large shade trees. (You can see numerous photos in the gallery on this website.) My father proudly walks around the back yard at least nine times every day. He jokes that he does this once for every decade he has been alive! He finds the air “refreshing” and “invigorating.” I’m so proud of him! I cannot imagine what it must feel like to know somewhere inside you that you are slowly losing all that you hold so dear.

Frankly, if he cannot get physical exercise of some kind, it greatly impacts his mood. He simply MUST use his body or he gets quite agitated. This is where the meditation part enters the picture.

My father and I have become closer than ever before in our lives due to this illness and I am grateful beyond words for these precious moments. Since I’m a published author under a Hay House imprint with a book entitled, “BITE-SIZED PRAYERS: Non-Denominational Morsels to Feed Your Soul,” we actually sit and pray together quite often. Prayer doesn’t have to be verbal. Prayer can be as simple as breathing. Enter the mindfulness meditation or the walking meditation (around the back yard) or the breathing meditation.

I don’t need any research to tell me how beneficial meditation is for my father because I see the evidence for myself on a daily basis. He is primarily filled with joy for life, especially not knowing how much longer he may live. He is making the most of his moments.

In a research program at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, it was noted that both meditation and yoga engage different parts of the brain to improve neural plasticity. Techniques they studied included breathing, movement, postures, chanting, visualization and concentration (Friedman).

New research conducted at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has shown that practicing stress-reducing meditation and yoga can actually slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other dementias (Huffington Post, Post 50). They followed 14 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 with mild cognitive impairments for a period of eight weeks. There was a control group who received regular care and a study group who practiced mindfulness meditation.

After eight weeks, the study group was found to have less overall atrophy of the hippocampus and better connectivity in other parts of the brain associated with memory. A different study found that meditation has a protective effect on the brain, increasing protective tissues (Huffington Post, Post 50).

One thing in which my father excels is completing word search puzzles! Experts recommend that older adults with his condition engage in mentally stimulating activities (such as crossword and other puzzles) in order to reduce their risk of dementia.

Now, researchers suggest that practicing yoga and meditation may be just as effective – if not better – for protecting cognitive function (Whiteman, Honor; Medical News Today). This study involved following 25 participants ranging in age from 55 and up, who were followed for 12 weeks. One group engaged in memory enhancement training, while the other group practiced yoga and meditation.

After the study period, those who practiced yoga and meditation demonstrated greater improvements in visual-spatial memory skills – the ability to navigate and remember locations – than those who engaged in memory enhancement training. Additionally, the yoga-meditation group fared better than the memory enhancement training group when it came to levels of anxiety and depression, as well as coping skills and stress resilience (Whiteman, Honor; Medical News Today).

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Director of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, paying attention on purpose without judgment is the definition of mindfulness (Savlov, Ph.D., Steven M.; UC Irvine Mind). Participants in the MBSR program engage in 45 minutes of mindfulness meditation at home on a daily basis. Overall, research suggests this can produce marked improvements in autoimmune functioning, memory and cognitive processing, as well as a reduction in depression and anxiety (Savlov, Ph.D., Steven M.; UC Irvine Mind).

My father’s innate commitment to staying physically fit is having unexpected benefits. Again, I cannot overemphasize how proud I am of him! I think he’ll continue walking around that back yard every day as long as he is able! He’s my inspiration!

Works Cited:

Friedman, Jennifer D’Angelo. “The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” 23 02 2015. Web site. 31 01 2017.

Huffington Post, Post 50. “Can Meditation And Yoga Really Slow The Progression Of Dementia?” 19 11 2013. Web site. 31 01 2017.

Savlov, Ph.D., Steven M.; UC Irvine Mind. “Mindful Medication: A Path to Cognitive, Emotional and Physical Well-being.” n.d. Web site. 31 01 2017.

Whiteman, Honor; Medical News Today. “Yoga, meditation may reduce dementia risk.” 11 05 2016. Web site. 31 01 2017.


From Google Images and from:

2017 © Norma-Jean Strickland

What is the Difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

The information below was adapted from the following website, which was updated on January 24, 2017:

This brief blog article is not intended to provide a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider and/or conduct your own research. Much information is readily available on these topics and we encourage you to investigate further.

There tends to be a lot of confusion about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Dementia is a syndrome, whereas Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of the symptoms.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Although dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. Therefore, memory loss alone does not mean a person has “dementia.”

As mentioned, dementia includes a group of symptoms, the most prominent of which is difficulty with memory, together with additional problems in at least one other area of cognitive functioning such as language, attention, problem solving, spatial skills, judgment, planning or organization.

These cognitive problems represent a noticeable change compared to the person’s cognitive functioning earlier in life and are severe enough to get in the way of normal daily living, including social and occupational activities.

A good analogy for the term dementia is “fever.” A fever refers to an elevated temperature, indicating that a person is sick. However, it does not give any information about what is causing the sickness.

In the same way, dementia means there is something wrong with a person’s brain, but it does not provide any specific information about what is causing the memory or cognitive difficulties.

Dementia is not a disease, rather it is the clinical presentation or symptoms of a disease.

There are many possible causes of dementia, some of which are reversible such as certain thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies.

If those underlying problems are identified and treated, then the dementia can possibly be reversed and the person can return to normal functioning.

If you notice any changes in your own behavior or in a loved one’s behavior, no matter how subtle, seek medical advice immediately. Knowledge is power!

Image from:
The Alzheimer’s Reading Room website (above)

2017 © Norma-Jean Strickland

Common Terms

  • Assisted Living Home – An assisted living facility that provides resident rooms to ten or fewer residents. A health care institution other than a hospital or a nursing care institution that provides resident beds or residential units, supervisory care services, personal care services, directed care services or health-related services for persons who do not need continuous nursing services.
  • Adult Foster Care Home – A residential setting that provides room and board and adult foster care services for at least one and no more than four adults who are participants in the Arizona long-term care system and in which the sponsor or the manager resides with the residents and integrates the residents who are receiving adult foster care into that person’s family.
  • Adult Foster Care Services – Supervision, assistance with eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, self-medication and other routines of daily living or services.
  • Assisted Living Center – An assisted living facility that provides resident rooms or residential units to eleven or more residents.
  • Assisted Living Facility – A residential care institution, including an adult foster care home, that provides or contracts to provide supervisory care services, personal care services or directed care services on a continuous basis.
  • Assessment – A written analysis of a resident’s abilities; preferences; and need for supervisory care services, personal care services, or directed care services.
  • Activities of Daily Living – Bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, mobility, transfer, and toileting.
  • Healthcare Institution – Every place, institution, building or agency, whether organized for profit or not, which provides facilities with medical services, nursing services, health screening services, other health-related services, supervisory care services, personal care services, directed care services and includes home health agencies.
  • Nursing Care Institution – A health care institution that provides inpatient beds or resident beds and nursing services to persons who need continuous nursing services but who do not require hospital care or direct daily care from a physician. Nursing care institution does not include an institution for the care and treatment of the sick that is operated only for those who rely solely on treatment by prayer or spiritual means in accordance with the tenets of a recognized religious denomination.
  • Nursing Services – Those services that pertain to the curative, restorative and preventive aspects of nursing care and that are performed at the direction of a physician by or under the supervision of a registered nurse licensed in this state.
  • Residential Unit – A private apartment, unless otherwise requested by a resident, that includes a living and sleeping space, kitchen area, private bathroom and storage area.

Celebrating 15 Years of Service!

This year, Villa Serene Assisted Living Home is celebrating fifteen years of service to the community and to its residents. During which time Villa Serene has been involved in a number of outreach programs including fundraising for charities, educational classes for residents and their families, caregivers and members of the public.

“Reaching our fifteen year anniversary is a proud moment for everyone at Villa Serene Assisted Living,” said Beata Mlacki, managing director at Villa Serene. “Our staff, residents and their loved ones are such a close knit group and that is definitely something to be celebrated.”

The sense of family, the staff and our beautiful home and grounds are what attracted many residents in the first place. Some have lived at Villa Serene for many years while others came for short term respite or rehabilitation and returned to their homes.

To commemorate the anniversary, Villa Serene will be honoring our residents, past and present during our 15th annual Holiday party later this year. Family and friends of current residents and all the wonderful residents throughout our fifteen years are welcome to attend. Please reply on the Contact us page at Invitations will be sent closer to the date.

Villa Serene Care Home Video

The mission of Villa Serene Assisted Living Home is to provide exceptional care for the elderly in a safe and loving home. Our focus is on cultivating a supportive and nurturing environment so that each resident has the opportunity to engage in meaningful activity. All the while supporting the integrative belief to treat the whole person instead of the individual’s disorder, debility or disease.

What questions should we ask when touring a home?

  • Is the facility licensed?
  • Who owns the facility and what is their experience?
  • What are the admission requirements?
  • What is the monthly cost of care?
  • Do they require a deposit?
  • Do we have to sign a contract?
  • How long can a resident stay in the facility?
  • Are there any added expenses, other than the cost of care?
  • How many people is the facility licensed for?
  • What is the resident to staff ratio?
  • Does the facility have an awake staff?
  • What are the qualifications of the owners, manager and care givers?
  • How does the facility keep records of each resident? (food intake, medication log, etc.)
  • How often are showers given?
  • Are medications under lock and key?
  • Are residents allowed to leave the facility with family or friends?
  • What’s the typical resident profile? (alert versus confused)
  • What are the visiting hours?
  • How many people share one bathroom?
  • Does the facility provide transportation?
  • Is the bathroom handicapped equipped?
  • Can a resident have their own telephone line in the room?
  • Do they allow pets?
  • Who does housekeeping/ laundry?
  • Are the residents allowed to bring personal belongings?
  • Are meals prepared in the home?
  • Do they have a well balanced menu?
  • Do they have substitute meals for residents who don’t like what’s being served?
  • Are the residents dressed appropriately?
  • What time do residents go to bed and get up in the morning?
  • Does the facility have a house-call physician?
  • What kind of activities does the facility provide?
  • Is there an on-call beautician?
  • Can residents receive personal mail?

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer Disease

  • Stage 1: No Impairment – (normal functions) – The person does not experience any memory problems. An interview with a medical professional does not show any evidence of symptoms of dementia.
  • Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline – (may be normal age-related changes or earliest signs of Alzheimer Disease) – The person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses — forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. But no symptoms of dementia can be detected during a medical examination or by friends, family or co-workers.
  • Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline – (early-stage Alzheimer can be diagnosed in some, but not all, individuals with these symptoms) – Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration. Common stage 3 difficulties include:
    • Noticeable problems coming up with the right word or name
    • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
    • Having noticeably greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings Forgetting material that one has just read
    • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline – (Mild or early-stage Alzheimer Disease) –  At this point, a careful medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut symptoms in several areas:
    • Forgetfulness of recent events
    • Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
    • Greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances
    • Forgetfulness about one’s own personal history
    • Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline – (Moderate or mid-stage Alzheimer Disease) – Gaps in memory and thinking are noticeable, and individuals begin to need help with day-to-day activities. At this stage, those with Alzheimer’s may:
    • Be unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated
    • Become confused about where they are or what day it is
    • Have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic; such as counting backward from 40 by subtracting 4s or from 20 by 2s
    • Need help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
    • Still remember significant details about themselves and their family
    • Still require no assistance with eating or using the toilet
  • Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline – (Moderately severe or mid-stage Alzheimer Disease) – Memory continues to worsen, personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities. At this stage, individuals may:Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline – (Severe or late-stage Alzheimers disease) –  In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases. At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.
    • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings
    • Remember their own name but have difficulty with their personal history
    • Distinguish familiar and unfamiliar faces but have trouble remembering the name of a spouse or caregiver
    • Need help dressing properly and may, without supervision, make mistakes such as putting pajamas over daytime clothes or shoes on the wrong feet
    • Experience major changes in sleep patterns — sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
    • Need help handling details of toileting (for example, flushing the toilet, wiping or disposing of tissue properly)
    • Have increasingly frequent trouble controlling their bladder or bowels
    • Experience major personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions (such as believing that their caregiver is an impostor)or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding
    • Tend to wander or become lost
  • Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline – (Severe or late-stage Alzheimers disease) –  In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases. At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.