Marysville, Kansas is home to a very different kind of livestock operation called The Lighthouse, which doesn’t raise its critters for profit but rather familiarity. Cows, goats, and other farm animals provide the backdrop for The Lighthouse’s memory support facility where they care for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The Lighthouse attracted attention this winter when pictures of a calf named Spuds hanging out with residents started circulating on the internet. Lighthouse co-founder Mandy Becker says he’s not the only animal visitor the residents get. They all helped bottle feed a baby goat rejected by its mother this winter, too. Outside, residents find plenty of animals – and farm chores – with about 30 egg-laying hens, a miniature donkey, and a horse. The Lighthouse also raises its own beef with a small number of cattle on its 4 acre property.
Mandy explains that most of the residents are former farmers and ranchers, and the familiar setting is important to helping those with cognitive impairment access memories. Mandy is a nurse with a background working in memory support programs. She says that when she worked on the East Coast, she learned how important it was to care and comfort of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to be surrounded by familiar settings. That’s why in New York, the care facilities she worked mimicked high rises. She also knew that patients in rural America would have far different needs.
Mandy and her husband Trent set out to do just that by founding The Lighthouse in 2017, and buying a calf before they even opened for business. Mandy says that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients still experience emotions but often have time accessing the memories they are associated with. Even the smallest thing can trigger a burst of emotion that can seem to come from nowhere. She told AgDaily in an interview, “There’s not a lot of joy with dementia — it’s a debilitating and devastating disease. And that’s where we come in.” The Lighthouse aims to provide a setting that reinforces happy and joyful emotions.
Becker goes on to say that physical connections also help, so many of the residents do some of the same “chores” they did on their own farms. “It’s home, it’s work, it’s purpose. When they smell the manure, it’s a familiar smell, just like when they are getting eggs out of the coop, it’s familiar to them. All of these life skills don’t go away with dementia. It’s instinct, and it’s automatic.”
I’ve never heard of a mashup like The Lighthouse but it certainly brings a different perspective to what might be possible for longer-term elder care. I think best of all, it looks like the sort of place the grandkids would love to visit. You can learn more at their website HERE. Have a look through their Facebook photo gallery for more great pics of the residents and the critters. Click HERE. GREAT STORY! (Sources: AgDaily, RFDTV)