Cassia in the News

Augustana Care Received Eureka! Award from Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journals Eureka! Innovation Awards honor the activity surrounding startups, new products and business transformations. Augustana Care is pleased to announce we are one of the organizations who received an award in 2016, recognizing our multisensory environment at Emerald Crest by Augustana Care. The environment was designed for people with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions. Learn more in the Journal’s news story about Augustana Care.

Emerald Crest by Augustana Care’s commitment to people with dementia is based on a long-standing philosophy. The community’s founders brought Occupational Therapist Theresa Klein to Emerald Crest at its inception to create a memory care program. She has been passionate about the memory care field since high school, when her grandfather began showing signs of Alzheimer’s and came to live with her family.

When Klein’s grandfather contracted Alzheimer’s, there was little understanding at the time of how to deal with the disease. “It felt very isolating for my grandfather and for the family,” she recalls. “I committed myself to improving care for those with dementia,” she adds. “I envisioned a program that allowed individuals to celebrate their abilities rather than focusing on their deficits.”

When building Emerald Crest, Theresa and the founders sought advice from prestigious experts in dementia care. They recommended simple floor plans and serene décor to create a warm, welcoming environment. Lighting, rooms, kitchen, grounds and gardens were thoughtfully placed and designed to create a home where life’s rhythms and routines bring people together.

In addition, founders created a community that concentrates on residents’ abilities rather than disabilities so residents may continue to lead productive, meaningful lives. By drawing on the expertise of occupational therapists, the Emerald Crest program identifies gaps in residents’ abilities and develops strategies to fill those gaps. Occupational therapists and nurses then share these strategies with family members. They also use care strategies to train and guide caregivers, allowing them to partner with residents to help them thrive and retain life skills for longer periods of time.

The multisensory room is an outgrowth of Emerald Crest’s commitment to create an environment that maximizes residents’ abilities and successes.

An early version of a multisensory environment was called a “snoezelen room” and was created in the late 1970s by two Dutch therapists, Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul. They sought to promote relaxation and exploration for people with cognitive disabilities. This concept has since evolved and is starting to be used to create stimulating environments for individuals with dementia.


When Klein heard about the concept of a multisensory room, she believed it would be of great benefit to residents and talked to team members, who joined in her efforts to make the project a reality. Those efforts are resulting in a better quality of life for those we serve.

Emerald Crest’s new multisensory room is designed to help individuals who have difficulty understanding and organizing information they receive from their environment to receive and process incoming information in a meaningful way. Multisensory rooms can be powerful tools that help form new pathways in the brain and promote healthy, positive results, including the following:

  • Increased alertness
  • Increased attention to participate in daily care and activities
  • Decreased falls
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased need for medications
  • Decreased wandering, agitation or repetitive speech

Family members of residents say the multisensory room is making a profound impact. One resident who heard “Amazing Grace” tapped out the rhythm to the song while watching the lights above her. The resident’s husband reported that his wife’s heightened alertness also boosted her appetite.

Another resident who had not spoken for at least a year talked to staff and family members after being in the environment for only 30 minutes. When she came into the room, her fingers were curled against her chest and her head was down. Her fingers uncurled and relaxed while she was in the multisensory room and her eyes began tracking the light patterns she saw around her. She spoke very clearly when asked what she thought of the “show” she was seeing. “It’s beautiful,” she replied.

To learn more about the awards, please visit the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.