Lisa Gaudioso, VPO of Phoenix Senior Living

Lisa Gaudioso Joins Phoenix Senior Living as Vice President of Operations

Lisa Gaudioso was first introduced into the senior living world when she was working in Medicare certified home healthcare throughout New England. Her experiences led her to apply for her first Executive Director position, Jesse Marinko, now CEO and President at Phoenix,  hired her and welcomed her into the world of senior living. Lisa has now come full circle and is ecstatic to be back working with Marinko at Phoenix Senior Living. “Being here is like coming home,” says Gaudioso.

In her new role, her main focus is to spend time developing field operation by collaborating with regional leadership and Executive Director teams. She handles day to day operations and is starting her work by creating a strong foundation for her communities. Her short-term goals include helping teams navigate through the unknown and partner with risk management teams to follow COVID-19 protocols and precautions. Phoenix has implemented numerous safety measures throughout the pandemic such as enhanced screening, temperature checks, and following the state and federal guidelines in place.

Long-term, Gaudioso says, “we plan to be the leading provider in senior care in the South East. We are focused on growth and building a strong foundation so we can replicate the Phoenix model and open communities in other states.” Resident care is always at the forefront of Gaudioso and Phoenix’s mind, and they strive to provide top of the line patient centered care every day.

“When it comes to a loved one, everything matters. We want to have meaningful and personalized interactions with residents and their families. Sometimes it is easy to forget the little things, but often times the little things mean the most,” she says.

Especially amidst the pandemic, Gaudioso says the most rewarding part of her job is the thank you’s she receives on a daily basis. She is constantly overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude for how thankful her residents, their families, and staff have been during this time. Though it has been a challenging year, Gaudioso believes that the demand for senior living will grow as people realize it is the safest place for their loved one to be. To meet this upcoming demand, Phoenix has plans for growth and development in the upcoming years.

Gaudioso is thrilled to be joining the Phoenix Senior Living team and is grateful she was drawn to senior living from her previous occupation. She went from having little experience in the field, to Vice President of Operations, and is confident this is where she is meant to be. Caring for the residents and providing them the quality of life they deserve is infinitely rewarding for not only Gaudioso, but her entire Phoenix team.

Peter Stanton, CEO Stanton Communications

Changing the Conversation: How Senior Living Can Counter 2020’s Reputational Damage

Author: Peter Stanton, CEO of Stanton Communications, Inc.

The past year was not kind to the senior living industry. Media from The New York Times to the BBC carried sensational stories of nursing homes in crisis, of more than 100,000 COVID-19 related fatalities in long-term care facilities nationwide, and of the impact on staff, medical professionals and, especially, families who were prevented from visiting loved ones because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the coverage was shocking, it was not always wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that “The pandemic is reshaping the way Americans care for their elderly, prompting family decisions to avoid nursing homes and keep loved ones in their own homes for rehabilitation and other care.”

This all adds up to a reputational black eye leaving many in the senior living profession wondering if a path exists for the repair of the industry’s image and the rebuilding of a more favorable perspective for individual communities and companies. The answer is a resounding “yes,” but hard work and a unified effort is required.

A change in posture with respect to media engagement may also be required. One senior living executive recently described granting more than 14 media interviews during the height of the pandemic, none of which, in his view, turned out well. He reported not a single resulting story was fair or even correct. His willingness to engage is now fully exhausted.

A pervasive sense of communication reticence and caution may be understandable in light of such experiences. That reluctance to engage, however, is entirely contrary to the goal of restoring the foundation of trust on which the senior living industry depends in order to recover from the reputational hit of the past year. Instead, a comprehensive approach is needed that involves the industry’s leading organizations, senior living companies, and even the grassroots of families, care givers and administrators. Four core elements to a reputational campaign must be adopted:

Tell the Truth

The impact of the pandemic on nursing home residents was devastating. COVID-19 cases among residents were numerous and deadly. This necessitated significant changes in methods of operation, safety protocols, and service delivery. Many of those changes produced positive results and provide valuable lessons for the future. Communicators in the industry must be willing to talk about the impacts, but balance that dimension of the story with lessons learned that make senior facilities today far safer than perhaps they have ever been. Discussing improvements, sharing insights, and showcasing new standards are essential first steps toward rebuilding trust.

Tell the Positive Story

Seniors receive a level of care in nursing homes that is nearly impossible to replicate if they are living at home. In senior living communities, residents are enjoying an active, social and engaged lifestyle essential to good physical, mental and emotional health. Now is not the time for the industry or companies to go silent, but instead the time to showcase programs for senior wellness and socialization. Further, with seniors at the head of the line for vaccines, more opportunities exist to demonstrate all the industry is doing to improve the health and vitality of residents. And while The Wall Street Journal talks about the increasing percentage of seniors being kept at home, the industry must counter with news of enhanced service and the toll that home care imposes on families, budgets and seniors now isolated from peers.

Put Residents & Families Forward

While the industry’s credibility may be injured, residents and families have the capacity to serve as advocates. No one knows better the fear that prevailed, but also the care that was provided throughout the pandemic. As vaccines allow patients to turn the corner to a more hopeful future, providing ways for them to tell their stories on web sites and social platforms can be a powerful rebuttal to pervasive negative perspectives. Few can speak with more authority or respect than those who lived through the experience and maintained trust in their care givers and communities.

Be Proactive & Relentless

An industry op-ed in response to The Wall Street Journal is sorely needed, but even more important is a consistent and ongoing initiative of outreach and engagement with the media, with families and with care givers. Such outreach must be multi-dimensional consisting not only of a fully engaged media effort, but opportunities for dialogue on social platforms, delivery of data and updates on system enhancements, and creation of content in a variety of forms from video to graphical to written. Such a diversified campaign must be sustained, measured and refined as it unfolds. Coordinated messages about the value and validity of nursing homes for seniors needing round the clock care and of senior living communities for those seeking a means for staying connected to family and neighbors have never been more important or necessary.

The reputational impacts of the pandemic on the senior living industry have been dramatic, but they are not permanent if a concerted and consistent effort is undertaken to change the change the narrative, counter the negative, and maintain communications well into the future.

Neelam Brar visiting senior homes with Sophie Trudeau, the first lady of Canada

Total Life: Improve Aging with Therapy

The holidays can be especially lonely and depressing for seniors, but they don’t have to be. Neelam Brar, Founder at Total Life, is on a mission to support the health and wellness of seniors as they age through online therapy. “Given that an untreated mental health issue increases the risk of other illnesses by up to 48x, it’s imperative that seniors receive mental health screenings and support on a regular basis to improve overall health,” says Brar, “especially in the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic where feelings of loneliness, despair, and isolation have been exacerbated,” she continues.

Brar’s vision for Total Life came from the alarming statistic that 66% of seniors don’t receive the mental health care that they need. She’s solving this with Total Life a teletherapy platform that is: easy to use, covered by Medicare, stigma free. “We recognized we needed to find a better way to serve the large and growing senior population in the US and Canada, and this year was especially unique due to COVID-19,” says Brar. Telehealth has become the primary resource for healthcare amidst the pandemic with more than 24 million seniors transitioning to telehealth in some capacity, so for Brar and her team, it allowed for the perfect window to launch a teletherapy platform featuring live group and private sessions online with licensed therapists.

Total Life’s group therapy sessions bring up to 10 seniors who are facing similar challenges at the same time together. With the support of the licensed clinician each session provides evidence based psychotherapy tools coupled with peer support to overcome anything from life changes such as death of a loved one or transition to a new home, all the way to health changes such as an acute illness, to the onset of chronic diseases. “The group settings not only help seniors learn from one another but the weekly sessions are also designed to reduce loneliness and isolation and improve coping skills,” Brar says. Total Life is unique because it is entirely telehealth based, flexible with scheduling, designed to serve needs quickly, and accepts medicare.

Mental health care for seniors is crucial for their overall wellbeing. As Brar says, “if we can support a healthy mind, we can support a healthier self. For far too long people have assumed that mental health issues such as depression or anxiety were just part of the aging process, but that is not the case. By helping seniors maintain a healthy mind, studies show we can improve overall health.” Total Life is designed to eliminate the stigma that is often associated with mental health and therapy. Each session is designed to help seniors overcome the everyday challenges as we age, “there is no stigma in getting support. Any changes that are causing prolonged stress or anxiety or that impact your routine, health, sleep or mood should be a welcome catalyst for a therapy check-in with Total Life, our sessions address these changes and provide solutions for coping and overcoming them in group and private sessions.”

Caretakers, both in home and in senior living communities, play a large roll in advocating for the mental health care of seniors. Brar stresses the importance of recognizing just how detrimental loneliness and isolation are to the older population. The long-term effects of isolation are more detrimental than obesity and are the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Total Life Therapy aims to bring attention and importance to the mental health care of seniors to help them thrive in this new chapter of their lives. Brar stresses that it’s our collective responsibility to help seniors access therapy easily from home, “if someone in your family is feeling down or isolated don’t delay! Sign them up at so we can perform a mental health screening and support their health.” Please visit for more information.

If you, a loved one, or your community is interested in utilizing Total Life, you can start by completing the intake process online. Total Life is currently scheduling annual mental health and wellness screenings with senior living communities and can be reached at

Florida Senior Living Association

Florida Senior Living Association: Forward-Thinking in the Industry

Florida Senior Living Association represents companies that operate professionally managed senior living communities offering independent, assisted living, and memory care services. Their mission is to recognize, promote, and increase professionalism and standards of excellence in communities throughout Florida, providing families and residents with the best options and quality of care. As part of their mission, FSLA also represents its members before the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Executive Agencies, and other state and local entities where senior living policies are decided.

When the FSLA was founded in 2013, they had 180 communities under their membership, and now they have over 450 communities throughout the state. The organization sets out to impact state legislature in Florida to help seniors, residents, and staff. They are at the forefront of public policy issues that face senior living communities and Gail Matillo, President & CEO of Florida Senior Living Association, and Jason Hand, Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs, are extremely passionate about advocating for their members and senior living overall.

The last year has been exceptionally challenging in senior living, but Matillo and Hand have seen enormous strides in the industry as well. Hand says, “There has been a lot of change, but what we have found, is for every challenge that arose, they were able to adapt and overcome.” Matillo stressed how crucial communication with their members have been throughout the pandemic, they put out over 70 COVID-19 updates and even started a COVID-19 publication to keep people updated and informed. She says, “problem solving is part of our job, we are here to take the burden off our members. It’s not about us, it is about what we can do to help them.”

Since 2013, FSLA has passed four major legislative bills impacting senior living. Their latest bill they worked on in 2018 passed legislation that gives the state more tools to crack down on unlicensed assisted living facilities. They strive to create the opportunity for excellence in senior living across the state and always represent their members best interests at a local, state, and federal level.

Matillo and Hand are currently both busy and thrilled at the promise and planning going into the COVID-19 Vaccination plan being rolled out to senior living communities. The pandemic has obviously taken a toll on their members and their communities, but as Matillo says, “everyone is looking forward to returning to some sense of normal as well as assuring our seniors are safe, secure, and happy.” Hand stresses that there will still be challenges and larger discussions on the table, such as COVID liability, financial assistance for communities at the local and federal levels, as well as assuring adequate staff PPE. He hopes this pandemic shed some light on the need for relief to be provided for senior living communities on a national level and will open an important dialogue.

Florida Senior Living Association is at the forefront of issues facing senior living and their team is extremely passionate about what they do. Hand says, “it is meaningful and good work to help our members, we love seeing them succeed and take the best care of their residents.”

Childhood Best Friends Become Senior Living Specialists

Three Childhood Best-Friends Grow Up to Collaborate as Senior Living Leaders

Lori Farris, Susan Heymann, and Lorri Bernstein grew up together in Highland Park, on the Northshore of Chicago and went from Kindergarten best-friends, to working together at Senior Living Specialists. None of these women ever envisioned themselves in senior living, they all went down their own paths and pursued other careers, but their friendship has come full circle and they are all putting their passion into senior living.

Fast forward 50 years from their days of sleepovers and hopscotch, all three women were drawn into the senior living industry after personal experiences with their own parents. Two years ago, Lori Farris founded Senior Living Specialists Houston, a year later, Lorri Bernstein followed in her footsteps and opened Senior Living Specialists Philly, and just recently Susan Heymann has joined the team with Senior Living Specialists Chicago. At Senior Living Specialists, their goal is simple, aiding seniors and their loved ones through the process of finding a senior living community and finding them their perfect home for the next chapter of aging.

Farris, Heymann, and Bernstein are extremely passionate about what they do, and love that they can do it together. Farris says, “we each bring our own unique selves to the table when we approach how we work with our clients.” This type of individual, passionate, and catered approach is what makes Senior Living Specialists so unique.

Each specialist spends time curating a portfolio of senior living communities, touring them, meeting Executive Directors, and learning the ins and outs of each community. By immersing themselves in the communities, they are better able and equipped to find each senior the best fit for their individual needs. Lori Farris says, “we come into these seniors lives at a very vulnerable time, we strive to make the best decisions for them and help provide them with the best quality of life.”

After they find each client their new home, their work is far from over. All three friends add their own personal touch to give back to the senior living industry. Susan brings art projects to communities and also often creates paintings for her clients, such as a painting of one client’s beloved dog. Lori has started book clubs within communities as well, striving to engage residents as much as possible and give them creative outlets. They all agree that the motivating factor behind not only their work, but all work in senior living, is their hearts.

Lori Farris stresses the importance that senior living is certainly not the end of these seniors lives. “People resist leaving home because change is scary, but being in this industry has shown me how much moving into a community is the start of a new life and a new chapter.”

The trio wants to encourage people to start planning for senior living and aging in place sooner rather than later. Farris estimates that about 80% of the time people contact them in crisis, when a loved one falls, or their health begins to deteriorate, and it can add stress and challenge to navigate from a place of panic and uncertainty. They stress the importance of planning in advance, as it aids the decision-making process in the chance a crisis arrives. The process of transitioning into a senior living community can be daunting, but the lifelong friends have made it their mission to connect their clients with the perfect fit for them.

The Zuccari Family of Hamilton Insurance

Hamilton Insurance Agency Provides Specialized Senior Housing and LTC Insurance

Since 1982, Hamilton Insurance Agency has been a leading authority in providing comprehensive insurance products, risk management services, integrated benefits administration, and relevant technology solutions. Jason Zuccari, VP of Development and External Relations at Hamilton discusses how their experience over the last four decades has solidified them as one of the nation’s largest independent insurance brokerage firms that specializes in senior housing and long-term care facilities.

Zuccari describes Hamilton Insurance Agency as a “one stop shop” for all insurance needs in the senior living space. Hamilton is a boutique firm grounded in their client-first approach. Hamilton prides itself in being a personable, family run business. Alan Zuccari founded the company in 1982, and now works together with his two sons, Jason and Jarred to provide comprehensive insurance and risk management services. The organization is comprised of 100 employees in divisions spanning Life, Health and Benefits, Commercial Property and Casualty, Personal Lines, Accounting, Risk Management, Claims and Wholesale.

Their LTC clients range from small, stand-alone communities, to national operators with hundreds of facilities in their portfolio. Hamilton has remained exclusively focused on developing efficiencies and cost saving strategies for senior living communities and LTC facilities for over 40 years. Zuccari says, “we are senior experts, this is what we do, live, and breathe every single day. The volume of our communities attests to the work and expertise we have accomplished in this space.”

Now more than ever, having a broker that knows the ins and outs of the senior living space and can provide the best coverage is crucial. Zuccari believes that there are good signs moving into 2021 in the senior living industry, but there is still much to overcome. Each of Hamilton’s insurance plans are specifically tailored to the community it covers, no one community has the same needs and requirements. As part of their team, they have a risk manager that walks through the communities and advises them on methods to keep their claims low.

For risk management, they also have a cutting-edge technology system called “servarusRM” that streamlines quality assurance and risk management data by locating and analyzing the root causes of events to mitigate future incidents. The system works to create detailed reports for communities to track and manage events in order to reveal ways to improve care and decrease liability exposure. Their risk management tool ERMA provides:

• Secure Web-Based System
• Dynamic Reporting
• Medical Records Request
• 24 Hour Alert System
• Policies & Procedures
• Quantitative Data for QAPI
• Custom Benchmarking & Reporting
• Corporate Dashboard
• Survey Tracking
• Unplanned Hospital Discharge
• Changes in Resident Status
• Wound Management/ Skin Integrity
• HUD Third Party Fulfillment
• Medication Error
• Saftey Teams
• Risk Management Assessments
• Pharmacy Variance
• Incident Tracking

Hamilton Insurance and its team are driven by their passion and understanding for the senior living space and strive to ensure quality coverage for every community in their portfolio. Hamilton’s dedication to excellence and their knowledge in the senior living come together to mitigate risks and collaborate with each community to assure the highest quality of care for the residents. As Zuccari notes, “It all starts with the culture in the community, from the executives, to the nurses, all the way to the resident level. We help bring all the pieces together to help communities run more effectively.”

HEALTHTAC Virtual Connect 2020: A must-attend senior living industry event.

HEALTHTAC Virtual Connect 2020: Where Senior Living Industry Leaders Collaborate

On Tuesday, December 8th, from 10:00am-5:30pm EST, HEALTHTAC is hosting HEALTHTAC Virtual Connect. This one-day must-attend event provides a setting for senior living executives to share experiences, gain insight from peers on the issues and challenges in today’s market, as well as bring fresh ideas to the table and take away cutting-edge information.

Though leaders in the industry are used to HEALTHTAC’s in-person events, their new, innovative virtual platform is sure to deliver the same hands-on, personal, and executive experience participants are familiar with. COVID-19 has taken the senior living industry by storm, and HEALTHTAC’s platform is designed to provide leaders, buyers, and executives a place to connect, collaborate, and create a vision for the future while tackling the challenges at hand.

The day-long event will feature three panels with esteemed executives in the senior living industry from across the country. The first panel of the day will tackle the subject at the forefront of the industry’s mind: COVID-19. The panel discussion titled “COVID-19 & Senior Living: How the Industry Has Adapted”, will feature Severine Petras, CEO of Priority Life Care, Lisa Cini, founder of Mosaic Design Studio, and Justin Wray, VPO of Pegasus Senior Living. These industry experts will engage in discussion about the changes in the senior living space over the last nine months, the highs and lows, and what senior living is going to look like moving into 2021 and beyond.

Every element of HEALTHTAC Virtual Connect is designed to allow for interaction between industry executives to stimulate ideas, share practical advice, and enable attendees to hone their leadership skills. The event affords attendees the opportunity to:
• Engage in live Q&A during interactive educational sessions where senior living executives share their unfiltered views on challenges facing the industry and discuss the latest parameters of how we collectively move forward.
• Participate in group boardroom presentations with other industry executives to learn about and source cutting-edge products to enhance the resident experience, improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs, and receive practical advice.
• Enter the Virtual Networking Lounge to participate in or start a group chat, establish and build relationships with key industry executives, ask questions, and get answers.

HEALTHTAC’s virtual platform allows leaders to engage with other industry professionals during boardroom presentations and a networking session. In just one day, HEALTHTAC’s focused, personalized approach will help you find solutions to improve your business and bottom line that will save you months-worth of research.

The additional two panels scheduled throughout the day will touch on crucial and timely industry topics with conversations from top executives. The panel “The Silent Pandemic: How Isolation Has Impacted Senior Living” will feature Sapna Dhawan, President of the Lantern Group, Eric Hadley, President of Premier Senior Living, and Jamie Ranzan, President of Solera Senior Living. These panelists will be digging under the surface level of the pandemic to discuss the impacts isolation has had on residents, staff, and families, as well as their own unique ideas, programming, and solutions that were implemented over the last nine months.

The last topic, which has been a challenge for many senior living communities and executives across the country, is “Cleaning Up: Keeping Facilities Safe In ‘The New Normal’”. The group tackling this subject will be Chet Bhasin, Chief Strategy Officer at Shepherd Center, Joe Jasmon, CEO/Managing Partner at AHMG, Thomas Laborde, Senior Advisor at Aegis Living, and Peter Stanton, CEO at Stanton Communications Inc. Whether it is physically cleaning up a community, new design and construction models, or tidying up from bad press, this panel will dive in headfirst.

If you’re interested in attending HEALTHTAC Virtual Connect to collaborate with other industry leaders, please contact Jay Viola at or (631) 424-7755 ext. 106.

COVID-19 Vaccine Program on the horizon for LTC facilities

Understanding the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program

The CDC recently announced its partnerships with CVS and Walgreens to offer, upon approval, on site COVID-19 vaccination services for nursing home and assisted living facility residents. The Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program’s goal is to provide start to finish management of the COVID-19 vaccination process. This program aims to provide critical vaccination services free of charge to senior living facilities, where the most vulnerable population to the virus reside.

“Today’s historic pharmacy partnership will truly help jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering, and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a press release on the HHS website. “CDC is proud to be a part of this public-private partnership that is advancing care for the Nation’s most vulnerable.”

As found on the CDC website, the program requires the pharmacies to do the following:

  • Schedule and coordinate on-site clinic date(s) directly with each facility.
    Three visits over approximately two months will likely be needed to administer both doses of vaccine and vaccinate any new residents and staff.
  • Order vaccines and associated supplies (e.g., syringes, needles, personal protective equipment).
  • Ensure cold chain management for vaccine.
  • Provide on-site administration of vaccine.
  • Report required vaccination data (approximately 20 data fields) to the local, state/territorial, and federal jurisdictions within 72 hours of administering each dose.
  • Adhere to all applicable Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) COVID-19 testing requirements for LTCF staff.

Once the government provides an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, CVS and Walgreens will schedule on-site immunization dates directly with long-term care facilities, according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Jeff Altschul, Director of Sales Marketing at Arboria of Long Grove, one of the communities who opted to enroll in the program, is enthusiastic about this partnership, he says, “On behalf of all LTC facilities, the CDC should be commended for its efforts in providing a remedy that will hopefully nurture safe and healthy environments for both residents and staff. This will also be a huge “value add” to viability of communities as an option for families vetting care options for their loved ones.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar released a statement saying, “Our unprecedented public-private partnership with CVS and Walgreens will provide convenient and free vaccination to residents of nursing homes across America, another historic achievement in our efforts to get a safe and effective vaccine to Americans as fast as possible.”

LTC providers were given the option whether or not they wanted to enroll in the program, and many opted in. In a press release, Creekside Oaks Retirement Community, operated by Sunshine Retirement Living in Ohio, announced their enrollment in the partnership.

Luis Serrano, CEO of Sunshine Retirement Living said in his statement, “Being among the first senior living companies to participate in this program provides us with anticipated early access to COVID-19 vaccinations and at no-cost to our residents; and is yet another example of our steadfast commitment to the safety and health of each of our residents and staff. Based on our partnership with CVS to provide flu vaccination clinics at our communities across the country, we know we are working with a credible and reliable provider to safely administer this program.”

Sunshine Retirement Living is one of many communities that have opted to join the partnership. Over 10,000 communities across the country have enrolled and are patiently awaiting next steps for vaccine approval and distribution.

Dan Levitt, Executive Director at Tabor Village, believes that the partnerships facilities have with pharmacies has always been, and will continue to be, crucial to provide the highest quality of care. Levitt says, “Distributing the vaccine will be a major undertaking, however assuring the vaccine is given to our most vulnerable population first is crucial.”

With all these new developments, many people still have reservations about receiving a potential COVID-19 vaccine. To this sentiment, Levitt says, “in order to obtain herd immunity, such as with the influenza vaccine, enough people have to take the vaccine in order to prevent the spread.” Levitt stresses that the vaccine is not a one-stop solution to COVID-19, but it is a huge step in adding a crucial layer to protect against the virus. Even with the vaccine partnerships in place, mask wearing, social distancing, and other measures will still need to be taken in LTC facilities where the residents are especially vulnerable.

At the present moment, there are still no COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. There are multiple vaccines that have shown early success and are moving into their final stages of testing. The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program has been established in anticipation that one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be available before the end of the year. The CDC expects the vaccination program services to continue on site at participating facilities for approximately two months. After the initial phase of vaccinations, each facility will have the option to continue working with CVS or Walgreens, or they can switch to work with a different pharmacy provider of their choice.

The Science & Art of Changing your Brain

Maplewood Senior Living Partners with Drexel University for a Four Week Virtual Brain Health Series with Dr. Kristen Betts

Dr. Betts is a Clinical Professor in the Educational Leadership & Management and Higher Education Leadership programs in the School of Education at Drexel University. Her father is a resident at a Maplewood community in Newtown, CT. After eight strokes, cancer, radiation, and open-heart surgery, Dr. Betts used her own studies, looking at mind, brain, and education science to educate and inspire her father with the concept of neuroplasticity and the ability to change the brain.

Neuroplasticity is defined as the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. The four-week brain health series was inspired by Dr. Betts father and his enthusiasm to share his daughters work with his friends and staff at Maplewood. The series started out as a six week, in person series, and Dr. Betts just expected her father and his friends to show up, but was pleasantly surprised when over 70 residents, their families, and staff showed up to learn about the science and art of changing the brain.

Dr. Betts said, “They became so excited and well versed about brain health. The residents loved the idea that they had the power to change their brains. They developed an understanding that you can change your brain over a lifetime, even when there is trauma, there is still such importance in having a growth mindset, rehab is something they should embrace.”

After such success in person, and in the wake of COVID-19, Dr. Betts and Maplewood created a four-week online series to offer in their MA, CT, and OH communities. Dr. Betts’s curriculum also trained the employees so they could use it to help their residents. The staff went through a more rigorous and in-depth training to immerse themselves in the content so they can better contribute to the care and education of their residents. “The staff and facilitators love it,” comments Dr. Betts, “they think it is empowering to the residents and the family members.”

Each week of the series will focus on various key topics relating to brain function and health with tools to maintain cognitive abilities. Drexel University shares their latest research and studies to provide up to date and relevant information to combat cognitive deterioration. Maplewood is proud to partner with Drexel and provide resources and education to their community as well as others.

Laurie Lofgren, Executive Director at Maplewood at Newtown, believes that “knowledge is power,” she says, “the knowledge that you can continue to preserve, maintain, and improve cognition, regardless of what stage you are in your life, through continuing to exercise their brain and retain that cognition is extremely powerful. It is never too late to continue to learn.”

Dr. Betts and Lofgren have both seen the series bring awareness to the brain, as well as provide information and tools to residents, families, and staff. Dr. Betts has been blown away by the residents responses and their eagerness to take control of their brain health and make efforts to improve every day. “The knowledge they walk away with encourages them make better decisions for themselves that help their brain health. It has been life changing for her as an educator.” Dr. Betts remarks.

Dr. Betts will continue to insert additional programs throughout the year, especially around the holidays to combat any depression and isolation that may occur, focusing on mindfulness. Lofgren says, “we are always looking for new innovation, technology, and programs that we can offer to our residents, staff, and the larger community.” This partnership is part of the latest addition of a suite of programming and engagement to keep residents cognitively engaged.

Rachael Wonderlin, Dementia by Day

Rachael Wonderlin, Dementia Consultant, Discusses Dementia Care in the Age of Covid-19

When talking about residents with dementia, Rachael Wonderlin, founder of Dementia by Day, has trademarked the term “embrace their reality™” which plays a crucial role in understanding and providing the highest level of care. By training staff and encouraging loved ones to insert themselves in the reality of the resident with dementia, it creates a better quality of life and care for the resident.

Obviously, the virus itself has impacted senior living and memory care drastically, but Wonderlin emphasizes that the isolation has been the most detrimental to those with dementia. When the guidelines and requirements came out, people were unsure how to adapt those policies to dementia care. Wonderlin stresses that people living with dementia cannot understand or remember why they are supposed to be following rules or restrictions. “You cannot explain the situation to them normally, seeing staff wearing masks can be jarring, they are used to seeing smiling, comforting faces, treating these patients during COVID-19 is an extremely different animal.”

To combat this, Wonderlin notes it is extremely important for each community to come up with a specific plan tailored to dementia care. There are ways to still follow the guidelines while creating a sense of normalcy for residents with dementia who are confused by these sudden and drastic changes to their lifestyle. Wonderlin suggests explaining the mask as the caregiver has a cold and wants to keep the resident safe, not alarming them, but explaining the reason for the difference in appearance than they are used to. She also explains that asking questions is crucial in order to “embrace their reality™”. For example, when a resident asks where someone is, the caregiver should ask where they think that person is, and whatever the resident responds is the correct answer.

“When you know where someone’s reality it is easier to go there, everyone feels a sense of comfort when someone is agreeing with them.” By using these slight changes in communication, it will vastly improve the dynamic between resident and caregiver.

Wonderlin believes it is crucial to find wats for family members to visit and interact with their loved one as long as it is safe. Along with connections with their families, creative engagement is important for residents well-being as well. For these activities, Wonderlin suggests integrating dementia specific programming into their day to day. “Patients with dementia need new and interesting activities, get innovate, continue to experiment until you can find activities for your residents, cater the programming to who your residents are as people,” Wonderlin says.

The best activities for residents with dementia are ones with a clear outcome. Even typically mundane practices such as folding and sorting, are things that have a clear outcome and can provide a sense of comfort, usefulness, and normalcy to residents. Though simple, games and activities with minimal explaining and clear outcomes are a sure way to keep these residents engaged even during uncertain times.
Part of Wonderlin’s work is changing the narrative around dementia care. She stresses the importance of not approaching every dementia patient the same, but rather as individuals. For Wonderlin, dementia care is always first and foremost in her mind, but she is hopeful that there is a positive shift happening that will make dementia care more of a priority for the senior living industry as a whole.