SHERIDAN — Dementia Friendly Wyoming established itself in a brick-and-mortar facility, the Gathering Positive Solutions, or GPS Center, to continue work started in Spring 2017. The $1.1 million grant spans three years, and employees of the Center hope to root programs into the community before the grant’s expiration in September 2019.
Care partners who work with family members or friends living with dementia may begin seeking help through the GPS Center by calling care consultant and counselor Vanessa Thiele. Thiele focuses her efforts on initial interactions with care partners and those for whom they provide care. In her sect of Dementia Friendly Wyoming, Thiele coaches care partners along with those living with dementia in two ways.
First, she makes initial contact with clients through care consultation. The ongoing case management-type service provides information and referrals to other related resources in Sheridan. The initial contact with Thiele also identifies differences in core values between the caregiver and the person living with dementia.
A visual aid consisting of magnets on a board helps clarify the order of values for the person living with dementia, as well as the caregiver’s perception of the order of those values.
“It really enables us to have a conversation on why they are different and what can we do to work around that?” Thiele said. “How can we integrate a care model based on the person living with dementia’s values?”
Secondly, Thiele administers five coaching sessions to help determine care preferences of both the person living with dementia and their care partner. Another more detailed visual aid helps delegate tasks between caregivers, friends, family and service providers to ensure proper care for the person living with dementia.
The next step at the Center moves the care provider under the direction of Heather Comstock, who educates with Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to care.
Snow, an educator on dementia, obtained a master of science, earned a license for occupational therapy and serves as a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. Snow divided her concentrated skills into four certifications, in which Comstock will earn her fourth and final certification this weekend.
The certifications authorize Comstock to hold three progressive workshops; complete one-on-one or group coaching sessions designed to build knowledge and skills; consult with community care partners in dementia-related challenges through effective communication techniques; and engage community care partners through intensive training to help with those living with dementia.
Comstock said she takes the role of dementia care educator as both a privilege and responsibility to the community. She found success in her aspect of the Dementia Friendly Wyoming training throughout the program’s first year, before the establishment of the Center. Out of six workshops presented, she recorded 31 attendees, with many attending all three types of workshops available.
Comstock encouraged those interested in dementia care education to contact the Center with questions quickly, as less than two years remain on the grant. The group continually evaluates each element of education and consultation and adjusts based on feedback.
At the conclusion of the grant funding, stakeholders involved in Dementia Friendly Wyoming will evaluate what worked and what did not. Comstock hopes the recognized needs will transfer to care through The Hub on Smith or through the Center.
Richard Garber, business liaison for Dementia Friendly Wyoming, trained 15 employees at Home Depot in dementia-friendly tactics in the past year, among many other businesses. The program was so successful with the small group that Home Depot plans to go to corporate with the idea of training at that level and help Home Depot become a widespread dementia-friendly business.
He plans to continue training entire businesses in Sheridan, as well as individual employees, on dementia-friendly tactics to ensure Sheridan’s success in spreading education on how to care for people living with dementia.
For caregivers seeking help with their loved one living with dementia, call the GPS Support Center at 307-461-7134 or visit dfwsheridan.org for statistics, support and services.