"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
- Leo Buscaglia
I remember the first time I realized something was wrong with Dad. We were out for a walk on a beautiful summer day, sharing stories and updates along the way. However, during our 20-minute adventure my dad told me the same story, nearly word-for-word, multiple times and with no realization that he had done so repeatedly.
My gut sank because I had seen something similar with my grandmother, his mother, who had lived with memory issues for many years. Grandma Esther had spent her final days in a nursing home with what we thought was forgetfulness due to normal aging.
Unfortunately, over the course of the next 10 years we came to recognize that Dad’s memory loss was NOT normal aging. It was dementia, just as my grandmother’s had probably been too. As a result, I worked with my family and his medical team to ensure Dad received the best in care and quality of life. However, this adventure did not come without a struggle, and I always wished there was someone there to help guide the way.
It was during this adventure that I began working in long-term care and found my passion, which is to help those living with memory loss and their families. I spent over 14 years advocating for those living with dementia in the community and in senior living. Even venturing to Washington D.C. to speak to Federal legislators as part of a coalition of advocates for the Alzheimer's Association and on the State level for programs like the Silver Alert Program and the Dementia Care Specialists Program. As a result, I was awarded Wisconsin's Professional of the Year by the Alzheimer's Association and David G Anderson Community Service Alumni Award by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
In recognizing the need for additional training for those working in long-term care and for the public on dementia, brain health, and caregiver supports I created and have provided hundreds of educational tools and presentations to help family and professional caregivers. Each strives to provide a better understanding of the process and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. These trainings also equip the audience with techniques to enhance communication and provide personalized engagements that instill purpose and spark joy!
As a Certified Dementia Practitioner, I have seen firsthand how these trainings have been used in the home and care setting to improve care, boost morale, increase retention, and provide insights that last a lifetime. I have been blessed to present multiple times for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Statewide Conference, Wisconsin Representatives of Activity Professionals Statewide Conference, State of Wisconsin’s Department of Human Services FOCUS Conferences, Oakton College, and many local organizations too.
One tool I am honored to encompass into my consultations and trainings is the Virtual Dementia Tour by Second Wind Dreams. As Wisconsin's first Certified Virtual Dementia Tour Trainer, using this empathy training to help those who are fully cognitive understand what it feels like to have dementia is amazing. I have family and professional caregivers who have told me years after taking the Virtual Dementia Tour that they still remember it and how it has affected their care and compassion moving forward.
In addition, I have counseled hundreds of families from pre-diagnosis through end-of-life choices. Helping to obtain and complete paperwork; researching safety options to keep loved ones at home; offering mediation services to local and long-distance families; evaluating personalized placement into assisted living and skilled nursing facilities; creating tailored care and quality of life plans; and helping with hospice decisions.
211 is the essential call for community services that anyone can use to get help. A disease like dementia touches the person diagnosed, their family, friends, caregivers, care partners, and reaches out to impact their entire community. My hope is that Dementia211 can be that service that offers personalized, unbiased help to you or someone you know today!
Below is a picture of my dad and me...to look at it one may not see the journey that dementia has already taken us on, but it was a long one. Filled with twists and turns, tears, smiles, and love.
Contact Dementia211 and let me help assist you today!