LIVINGSTON, NJ — Area residents facing the challenging decision of whether to place a parent in a long-term care (LTC) facility due to complications related to dementia should feel comforted by the care provided at CareOne at Livingston Assisted Living, where Dementia Care Specialist Mary Beth Rose, RN, CDP, has been praised for her expertise and her dedication to patients and their families.
Leaders at the local LTC facility have expressed pride in Rose’s willingness to go above and beyond for residents, often traveling across New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to meet with families in order to learn more about their loved ones’ conditions. Although this is the 65-year-old’s first time working in an assisted living environment and her first time working with dementia patients, CareOne at Livingston said Rose has been an integral part of the residents’ success.
“I truly believe everything I have done in my 40 years of nursing has led me to this position as a dementia care specialist because I use everything that I’ve learned since 1979 to care for people living with dementia,” said Rose. “I honestly sometimes feel like a new graduate because I’m just so enthusiastic and so passionate about my position now, and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to make a difference for these families and for these people who have such a devastating disease.”
Rose joined the CareOne team in 2017 after more than 30 years in acute care, including 17 years at Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark. Her first introduction to dementia care was in her position as Assistant Director of Nursing for CareOne at The Cupala in Paramus, where one of her responsibilities included overseeing the “secured memory care residents.”
Through “caring for the elderly and trying to understand where medicine is going for people living with dementia,” Rose said CareOne realized how many families are unable care for loved ones at home due their cognitive decline, which can often lead to clinical physical issues. The role of dementia care specialist was developed at CareOne as a result so that there would always be an expert on hand who would not only care for those residents properly, but who would also work closely with the families.
“I couldn’t do my job without the families because they’re an integral part of my success in taking care of their loved ones,” said Rose. “I’ll go to a home or to a hospital or to a sub-acute environment and do a pre-assessment to learn about the resident before they move into one of the buildings that I work in. I meet the families and explain that they will become my partner because when the resident does move in to the facility, this becomes their home. We have to make sure that they are safe and cared for and that we understand exactly how we should care for them because they have such a specific brain disease.
“So many people think that dementia is an emotional disease or a psychiatric disease, and it’s not. These people actually have a brain disease, and we need to learn about that, and teach the care partners—that’s what we call the people in our facilities, they are not necessarily nursing aides or activities aides, all the people that care for residents living with dementia are called ‘partners,’ and once I determine the level of care that the resident needs, I teach the staff specifically how to care for that resident, and then I also include the family. So I have a lot of interaction with family members all the time.”
The close relationships Rose has developed with her patients’ families became even more imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic, which Rose said was “difficult for everybody,” but especially for LTC residents living with dementia due to the isolation.
“We heard throughout the pandemic that even people who don’t have dementia who are not cognitively declined or have a brain disease that isolation on the elderly was detrimental,” she said. “We became their family, and we became their face to the world, and we were just trying to keep them engaged and trying to make their life as normal as possible.”
Rose explained that as dementia progresses, many of those living with the disease have difficulty recognizing their families even when they are living in their own home environment. According to Rose, that cognitive decline became even more severe for residents of CareOne during the pandemic when family members were unable to visit as often as they typically would have.
“Many times, people with dementia have short-term memory deficits, but their long-term memory stays intact,” she said. “So one of the biggest things is when somebody moves in, we learn about the resident’s life story, and we ask family members to bring in photo albums so we can sit with the resident and go through the photo album and learn the names [and] just try to keep that isolation in check. It was difficult [during the pandemic], but that’s something that we do routinely so that we can try and keep those memories of their family members in their minds as much as possible.”
She added that music also played a major role in keeping the seniors engaged, stating that music “tends to stimulate emotion, whether it’s a sentimental emotion or a happy emotion.”
“All of our residents love Frank Sinatra and Perry Como and sometimes the 50s, and when you play that music or do exercises to music or just have that music on in the background when you’re looking at these photo albums, you can honestly see such a change in the person rather than somebody who has dementia who is just so isolated and sitting alone by themselves with no interaction,” she said. “I can imagine how terrible that is, but here, honestly it’s really terrific.”
Citing the prevalence of dementia in the older-adult community, Rose expressed that she has never experienced such dedication to those living with the disease as she has at CareOne. As she recalled the heartbreak she felt on the day she moved her own mother into a LTC facility, Rose said she would have felt significantly more comfortable if there had been a dementia care specialist on hand to be a constant partner for her family.
“For somebody who has to place their mother or father in a facility, we know how difficult that is, and we have really invested so much in caring for a family’s loved one here,” said Rose. “It’s honestly amazing what the company has done. I don’t know of any other place that has such devotion to people living with dementia and how to care for them properly and work with the families that trust us with their loved ones.”
At CareOne at Livingston Assisted Living, Rose said the facility has “invested in education and how to properly care for someone living with dementia” by following the “Teepa Snow strategies of positive approach.”
“Typically when people talk about dementia, they always talk about the things that they’ve lost—they can’t remember things, they don’t know how to find their apartment, they can’t drive, they can’t eat, they can’t do this on their own,” she said. “We don’t do that in CareOne. We look at positives. Instead of concentrating on what the person has lost, we concentrate on what remains. So it’s a positive physical approach to caring for somebody who is living with dementia.”
In her role at the facility, Rose trains staff members on the specific care that each individual patient needs and oversees activities “that are not just Bingo and board games and coloring,” but are concentrated instead on “positivity, independence, engagement and meaningful life for all residents.”
“When you’re talking about activities with somebody with dementia, you’re talking about engaging them in purposeful, meaningful life depending on the level they are in their dementia journey,” she said. “So if somebody comes in and they can still have a conversation and they can still answer trivia and do some fun music games and those kinds of things, we will build on that and try and keep them as independent as possible…So many people think about moving into a LTC facility where nothing happens, but it’s just the opposite here.”
Although “caring for somebody with dementia is complicated,” Rose said there is also “a reward every day” in her role as a dementia care specialist.
“When you see that they’re safe and comfortable, they thrive on love and compassion,” she said. “This is their home, and they honestly sometimes feel that we’re their family. So when we have those special moments, whatever the moment might be—whether they’re frightened and we’re able to decrease their anxiety and put our arms around them and tell them that they’re safe and loved and cared for and they just look at and you could see that they are not frightened anymore—it honestly means everything.”
CareOne at Livingston Assisted Living, located at 76 Passaic Avenue, also provides services such as sub-acute rehabilitation, pulmonary and orthopedic rehabilitation, cardiac care management, respite care, stroke recovery and more.
To learn more about CareOne and its services, CLICK HERE or contact the facility directly at (973) 758-4103.