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Cherry Village staff learns new methods to help Alzheimers residents
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Kristina Halatek, CNA, has a one-on-one conversation with Dolores Mason, Cherry Village resident. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

               When Kristina Halatek signed up for a recent training session, she was looking for ways to more effectively interact with Cherry Village Benevolence residents who have Alzheimer’s. She found what she was looking for.

            Halatek, certified nurse’s aide at the short- and long-term-care facility, has seven years experience working with Alzheimer’s residents but realizes there is always something new to learn.

            “I want to take advantage of any opportunity to better understand what people with Alzheimer’s are going through – to learn about the hobbies they used to enjoy, and their likes and dislikes,” Halatek said. “Since the Cherry Village staff is a big part of their support system, getting to know them personally is extremely important.

            “We also want to learn as much as we can about the disease. And that is what it is – a disease,” she continued. “It is not a behavior issue.”

            Denise Vann led the training session at Cherry Village, 1401 Cherry Lane. Vann is the outreach coordinator, Central and Western Kansas Alzheimer’s Association.

            Her training focused on ways health-care professionals and other caregivers can use activities to engage people with Alzheimer’s.

            “Denise was great,” Halatek said. “She gave us some new ideas and techniques for interacting with our residents. We learned different ways to approach many of the issues we face every day.”

            For example, some Cherry Village residents must re-learn activities of daily living, such as brushing their teeth.

            “The number of steps involved in brushing your teeth can be intimidating for someone with Alzheimer’s,” Halatek said. “We go through the steps one-on-one with a resident. Then they mirror what we do.”

            Vann noted there are four types of activities in Alzheimer’s care -productive, leisure, self-care and insightful.

            “Activities are the foundation in Alzheimer’s care,” Vann said. “We want to get all the staff involved because activities are not offered only by an activities director.

            “Every interaction is an activity and can bring meaning to many moments in life for someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementias,” she added. “When staff members view each interaction as an activity, even brushing teeth can open doors to memories. Patience and time are the biggest gifts we can give them.”

            Vann noted that the 10 Cherry Village staff members in the session “were very willing to learn and very welcoming to the continued education in Alzheimer’s care.”

            These staff members are sharing the information with their colleagues; most Cherry Village employees interact with Alzheimer’s residents at some level.

            Vann also mentioned the public may contribute to Alzheimer’s research and education by joining in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The local Alzheimer’s Association-sponsored Walk is set for Saturday, Oct. 7 at Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend. Registration starts at 1 p.m. with the Walk to follow an hour later.

Cherry Village Administrator Pam Lewis said she appreciates Vann’s on-site training. “Denise went out of her way to help us with this,” Lewis said. “She is well-versed in the disease and was able to share invaluable information. We cannot thank her enough.”

            A local family has managed Cherry Village, a non-profit facility, since it opened in 1978.