“I came out a different person,” says Lurline Beckford-Robertson, a Memory Care Lead Home Health Aide for Lifesprk who works in the Reflections Memory program on the Parkshore Senior Campus in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. While Lurline has worked in elder care for more than 9 years, she stresses that her eyes were opened last fall when she attended the Dementia Tour program as part of the Care Providers of Minnesota annual convention.
Actually, as part of the dementia tour, Lurline’s eyes were fogged with blurry goggles. She was also given ear plugs and then had to wear uncomfortable boots that pinched her feet – “they were like spikes” – making it difficult for her to walk. Then she was led into a darkened room and instructed to complete several different everyday tasks of living.
According to Care Providers, the tour offers a hands-on experience that helps participants better understand the issues facing both the caregiver and the person living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
As Lurline describes it, it was horrendous – and awe-inspiring. “I couldn’t believe that this is what people go through. It reinforced what I already thought,” and made it all too real. She still feels the impact even 9 months later. “It changed me. I take even more time with each client now, getting to know them, looking into their eyes, and really seeing and connecting with them.”
She explains that she sees her and her colleagues’ roles as ones that stand-in for family for clients with dementia. “We are their day-to-day family, and we need to do our best for them.”
Lurline has a passion for this work and now she’s putting her passion to work sharing her dementia tour experience with her team. “I’ve found many of them have also gone through the dementia tour, and we bring it to the new staff. I have to give the people who work in Reflections a thumbs up because they are just so good. True, there are daily chores we have to do, but there are emotions too, and we do it all for them [our clients].”
Her work each day may be emotional as much as physical labor, but Lurline loves every moment of it. Joy is apparent on her face as she describes her interactions with her clients. “I do what is best for these people, I do it for them, and I do it for Lifesprk, but I am also doing it for myself. Many times what we have to do is not in an instruction book. Our job is to make our clients’ lives easier, sparked. When I leave each day I know it is a job well done.” She adds profoundly, “It’s small, but it is so wide.”
You’ve got that right, Lurline. It is the little things that matter, and yet they make the world of difference for your clients in the Reflections Memory Care community at Parkshore.