According to the dictionary, the definition of the word job is:

  1. A regular activity performed in exchange for payment, especially as one’s trade, occupation, or profession.
  2. A position of employment.
  3. A task that must be done.

Caregivers working with those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have a “job.” They have a list of tasks that must be performed each day. They are required to adhere to a dress code and clock in and out for each shift. Caregivers wash clothes, change beds, serve meals, clean, and undertake any other task that has been assigned. And, every week they receive compensation for having worked at their job. But this work is more than a job; it’s personal.

“Caregiving for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease is more than a job; it’s personal.”

Caregivers provide the most intimate care that anyone can receive. They are trained to bathe, toilet, feed, and dress those who need assistance in their daily living activities. But the definition of the word “job” doesn’t say anything about emotional and physical attachments that come with providing intimate care; it doesn’t say anything about creating relationships with those cared for as well as for their family members; it doesn’t say anything about the loss that is inevitable when caring for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And more importantly, it doesn’t say anything about the battlefield that they are entering when attempting to provide necessary care. This work is more than a job; it’s personal.

The Four Truths About Dementia

At least two parts of the brain are dying; it is chronic and can’t be fixed; it is progressive and will get worse; and it is terminal. With these truths come changes in behavior and personality. With these changes come combative and aggressive behaviors, and when caregivers are just “doing their job” the battle begins. The battle of personal care for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease can include the battle of being hit and kicked; the battle of not understanding how to help someone whose brain is dying; the battle internally of feeling personal failure when mistreated by the one you’re trying to help. This work is more than a job; it’s personal.

Empowering Caregivers to End the Battles

When Caregivers are given the right tools, they no longer have to find themselves in a battle to provide care. Caregivers aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong; they’re doing the best they can with the tools they’ve been given. Ending these battles starts by first providing Caregivers a clear understanding that they can respond to a person’s change in cognition and abilities in a way that is not hurtful or offensive. It’s about showing them that with practice, common “reactions” to the person with dementia can become thoughtful “responses,” which improve quality of life for everyone involved. Caregivers can learn to recognize that the person with dementia is doing the best they can and that if something isn’t working, it’s the responsibility of the Caregiver to change their approach and behaviors toward the person with dementia. They will learn to notice the environment surrounding a person with dementia and make changes as necessary. This work is more than a job; it’s personal.

Earlier this year, Sonata Senior Living, owner and operator of Serenades Memory Care Assisted Living, demonstrated their commitment to this new approach to care by changing the culture of dementia care each and every day – and investing in the Teepa Snow Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) Training and Certification Program. “Sonata wanted to provide the proper tools to engage with residents or the necessary skills to adapt their approach to each specific resident,” says Shelley Esden, Senior Vice President of Operations for Sonata Senior Living.

The four month training program is an intensive process that includes hands on training and education provided by Certified Teepa Snow Coaches. Caregivers also learn about Teepa’s GEMS abilities, a model which compares stages of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease in the characteristics of precious jewels; it defines normal aging as well as behavioral and cognitive changes, skill set and abilities of those living with the disease. This empowers staff to recognize an individual’s current state of ability and adjust their expectations and approach accordingly, allowing them to better meet the unique and varying needs of that individual. Those Caregivers who have successfully completed the training are certified as “Foundation Leaders.” These Foundation Leaders, along with Sonata’s newly certified PAC trainers are amazed at how the new approach to care consistently provides them with tools and techniques that work! “This program is still in its infancy, but I am very encouraged by the initial progress,” said Dell Richards, Executive Director at Serenades by Sonata in the Villages.

There are numerous stories of residents connecting with caregivers in ways never achieved before. And there are dozens of heartwarming accounts of residents no longer resisting care simply due to a change in the caregivers approach. Esden reiterates, “It’s refreshing to see such positive outcomes from a training program like this. Caregivers are faced with both emotionally and physically exhausting struggles every day. Providing ongoing education and support is a top priority” Esden adds. Sonata will continue to explore avenues in which we can carry Teepa Snow’s message forth and to educate and advocate for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. After all, it’s personal.

Serenades by Sonata memory care assisted living is managed and operated by Sonata Senior Living located in Orlando, Florida. The Serenades by Sonata purpose built memory care communities are located in Winter Garden, Longwood, The Villages and Melbourne and offer central Floridian families an assisted living environment specifically designed and programmed for caring for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. For more information about Serenades by Sonata Memory Care Assisted Living, or to learn more about the Positive Approach™ to Care, visit or call 407-286-6490.

Written by Julie Fernandez and Shelley Esden, Sonata Senior Living.

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