Getting It Right

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Online Dementia Journal

By Online Dementia JournalOctober 24th, 2019

Getting It Right


by Katie Garvey, OTRL, CAPS,
PAC Certified Independent Trainer and Coach

In the Spring of 2016, the United Methodist Retirement Community (UMRC) appealed to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund for assistance to bring Positive Approach® to Care (PAC) to Towsley Village as part of the MHEF Health Aging initiative. To provide relationship-based care, staff and families needed a better understanding of dementia. This knowledge could empower them to respond compassionately, creatively, and appropriately based on the needs of the individual.  Families and professional care partners alike benefit from increased awareness and knowledge to improve skills and gain competencies in order to support people living with dementia well. As an established senior community resource, UMRC wanted to gain competency and expertise to share with a wider local sphere.

Beginning in December 2016, Towsley Village Dementia Care Assisted Living began a journey to create a supportive, engaging environment to meet the needs of those living with dementia and those who care for them. We looked to other similar organizations who were working with PAC to help guide our steps. We identified team members to be certified as trainers, coaches, consultants, and engagement leaders. We sponsored community-based general educational sessions for community at large participants, both personal and professional care partners, and agencies. We offered workshops to the CCRC community members, volunteers, extended family, and friends, which coincided with staff trainings held. Every staff member from every shift in Towsley Village received 4-12 hours of training with skills competency checks from PAC mentors. We continue ongoing training within our orientation and yearly competency plans with an eye to increasing depth of knowledge and skills at higher PAC levels.

The journey has included successes and challenges. PAC training gave recognition to the talents of many experienced residential care assistants. Those who applied to become coaches had a desire to improve their skill sets. The practical, applicable skills provided insight as to why some things worked, and others didn’t. Many commented on “how I wish I had this level of understanding earlier.” We now have a more refined lens to view each resident, identify his/her own needs, and consider more options to problem solve care challenges. We better understand how to build on strengths and respect differences without judgement. Family members have found the information helpful and it has given them concrete suggestions on what they can do to make a difference in their loved one’s day. Our community care partners, hospitals, churches, EMTs, and physicians, were also provided training as a start to improve continuity in care approaches.

We have begun to build a foundation of care partner skills based on each encounter with resident, staff, and family member who cross our threshold.  Some are uneasy with change in routines or habits and figuring out how to positively reinforce consistent integration of enhanced skills continues to be a work in progress. We have had to adjust and modify for learning styles, personality differences, and personal/professional work life balance issues, to create a supportive learning environment here.  Celebrating the positive and building to individual strengths requires commitment, patience, and a long-term view for sustainability. Our recent designation as a PAC Designated Organization celebrates the efforts of many who care deeply for people with dementia and want to create more moments of joy and feelings of comfort.

Kathleen Garvey, OTRL, CAPS, has been the Dementia Care Specialist at Towsley Village Assisted Living on the Chelsea Retirement Communities campus since 2016. A 2011 graduate of EMU’s MOT program, she has practiced in various settings with older adults across the continuum of care. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, she has a keen professional interest in creating therapeutic, engaging environments, to improve the health and wellbeing of all. She has presented in community, professional, and education settings on a variety of professional and intervention enhancement issues, most recently at the PDPM AOTA Specialty Conference in June 2019. She completed EMU’s Graduate Certificate in Gerontology-Dementia in 2018 and has been a PAC Certified Independent Trainer and Coach since 2017. She has been working on a special initiative at UMRC and other community partner agencies, funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Grant and the UMRC Foundation. Katie and the interdisciplinary staff have been working to develop care partner training resources and improve the quality of life for people living with dementia and all those who love and support them. Mother to two wonderful young adults and partner to a very resourceful, smart man, she believes in the power of occupation to make the most of all our days. She has been a loyal AOTA and MiOTA member since 2009 and welcomes all opportunities to enhance professional development.

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