Ep. 12 Trailblazing Dementia Care and Leading with Heart with Lori Jones and Eilleen Aldridge

Jun 12, 2024 | Podcast

Eilleen Aldridge, Vice President 12 Oaks Solutions, joins Lori Jones, Chief Operating Officer of 12 Oaks Senior Living, to discuss various aspects of community management, including dementia care through the Symphony of Life program.

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Lori 00:14
Welcome to The Roots Podcast. I’m your host Lori Jones, and today we have an incredibly special guest joining us! I’m very excited to have our dynamic Eileen Aldridge. She is our Vice President of Solutions at 12 Oaks.

Eileen’s journey with 12 Oaks began over 20 years ago as an activities assistant. With her passion and dedication, she quickly climbed the ranks at 12 Oaks, and she has assumed and taken on various leadership roles. And today she is the powerhouse leading our 12 Oaks Solutions team, and she manages a bright team of consultants and shapes the strategic direction for our communities.

She’s been an absolute trailblazer in the dementia environment, and has played a key role in creating the 12 Oaks trademarked Symphony of Life program, and it’s a fantastic program that focuses on dementia and supportive environments and ensures our residents thrive in mind, body, and spirit on their dementia journey. So we’re excited to talk to her about that today.

Eileen, we’re absolutely thrilled to have you with us today to share your insights and talk about your amazing work and what you have done with the Solutions Team for 12 Oaks and for our ownership groups. So thank you very much for joining us.

Eilleen 01:22
Oh, Lauren. Thank you for that introduction. I appreciate that. I am looking forward to talking about Symphony of Life that is near and dear to my heart. So thank you.

Lori 01:32
Absolutely. All right. But first, let’s talk about Solutions itself. 12 Oaks has a Solutions team. They are trusted partners with all of us at 12 Oaks especially supporting the Executive Directors, the Sales Directors and the Regional Vice Presidents. So can you talk a little bit about what Solutions does?

Eilleen 01:55
I can absolutely thank you. I love that you said trusted partners because that is so important. We really are trusted as we walk into a community. Directors, Marketing Directors or Regional Vice Presidents are life enrichment coordinators and even staff as we’re coaching and training and helping them grow. So we are so fortunate to be able to walk in communities and actually see growth in character and competency.

So we do a couple of different avenues. One being Symphony of Life in our dementia program and some others being first impressions. We’re able to go into community and help train and coach up what is first impressions and continued impressions with our residents and our prospects and our family members look like, as well as our engagement programs. Are they strong engagement programs? Are we helping people feel safe? Are we engaging people on a consistent basis in ways that they want to be engaged. That we’re looking at them and the importance to that all the way to sales and marketing and all the strategies that come in helping people go through stages of change and emotionally entangle to make these big decisions that they’re making on moving into a community.

And last and certainly not least, being able to come in and sit seats. So that would be that we can be the Executive Director. We can be the Marketing Director in a community. And the team is so talented, just a really talented group of people that are able to go into community, engage and make a difference.

Lori 04:14
And 12 Oaks is a high touch model. And our RVP, our Regional Vice Presidents, have a smaller group of communities than perhaps other companies do. And I know that the Solutions team is very vital in the support and being a trusted partner for the RVP. Can you talk a little bit about that partnership? I know that we covered sales and I know that there’s a clinical component. Can you talk about the partnership?

Eilleen 04:42
Yes. That’s a really big piece of, in this particular case, we’re really fortunate that we have a straight line to our Regional Vice President. So we are in communication with them usually on a daily, definitely a weekly basis. So any time we’re going into community they know exactly what we’re doing and what’s happening. We’re having conversations.

Lori 05:15
I would absolutely agree. And I know that they’ve been really instrumental in communication and education and coaching of the teams in support of the Regional Vice President. And we use our business plans to help support that. And the Solutions team has a part of that as well from a communication perspective.

Eilleen 05:34
Oh, yes. I’m glad you brought up the business, but I love the business plans. Those are absolutely key to be able to go in and see exactly where a department or where somebody is. Compliance was another piece of it that we can actually go in and see. Are they needing more coaching? And not only are they needing more coaching, but what is the plan? So to be able to have goals and they have a plan in a location that the Regionals can go to pull it up and see exactly what’s going on and what’s ongoing. So, the business plans are a very important piece of what we do.

Lori 06:19
I’m excited for you to share a little bit about our dementia patented Symphony of Life program, and just how it plays a part in being so instrumental for the wellness of our residents that we serve and supports them on their journey of wellness. So if you could talk a little bit about that, I would like you to please.

Eilleen 06:38
Symphony of Life was a brainstorming idea that started many years ago. And it really started as more of an extension to an activities program. With that said, it’s grown into a program that is a whole community program that works for the whole well-being of our residents and family members. Our family members come in and see that somebody is not only safe and secure in an environment which is part of it, but they feel they’re emotionally safe and secure. So our vision is to always bring somebody in and not only be able to provide the tools that they might need. And one example would be we use red plates in our Symphony of Life so that we know our residents are coming in and they can see a plate. They can actually see the food on it. It’s not a white plate that blends in with a white tablecloth. And if I have a resident who is also feeling safe, they’re not feeling like they need to run right out of the building, that they’re concerned that there is a feeling of safety is another big piece of it.

So we use a personalized care support plan. Do not confuse that with their care plan. And we all have our ways, and we want to know how people that are coming into our communities are doing that. And we want to make sure that we’re offering that.

Lori 08:37
And how do you connect with the care team and the activities team? The dining team? I know that you talked about the whole integration of the team is so important in the success of this. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Eilleen 08:48
I would start with the coaching and the training that we have initially. So when we first come in and we want to start our Symphony of Life programming, we actually have three phases that we look at. We do Symphony of Life one, Symphony of Life two, and Symphony of Life three. This makes sure that we’re integrating it and giving all of our team members time to chew on it and metabolize it and understand it and actually work the program with their residents.

So what we do is this is everyone from dining to housekeeping, care staff and then of course our activities staff as well. So life enrichment is a part of it. Our nurse, our CD is a huge piece of this as they work with caregivers to help them understand that caregiving and activities of daily living are very important, and how we do them are very important.

In our Symphony of Life coaching and training, that’s what we’re helping everybody understand: we might start with the body. So understanding that the whole body and the whole community is the foundation of how we’re going to start this program.

Housekeeping: housekeepers go into the rooms, the apartments every day. Every single day they are mingling with our residents, with new friends of theirs. So how do they do that when somebody is upset? They walk into a room and maybe somebody is upset, or they walk into a room and maybe somebody is not sad, maybe they’re fearful.
So it’s so important that it’s not just engagements, it’s not just activities. There’s so much more to it. So we not only teach, we come back and we coach. And maybe working with somebody who is not wanting to take a shower. So it’s important to us that we’re showing them, hey, here’s another way of how we help somebody enjoy their shower and not be fearful of their shower.

And I’ve got to add one more piece to that: it’s that we also have Symphony of Life in Spanish. So right now we have completed our Symphony of Life one and our Symphony of Life two that is all in Spanish. So those employees that we have that their heart language is Spanish, that they are able to learn this in their heart language.

Lori 11:51
It’s very exciting. So thank you so much about that. So that’s how impacting the team and getting them excited and engaged and bought in because that’s always the hardest part of anything we do in the communities when it comes to an initiative. It’s helping them understand it, to feel it, to live it. And I know that you and the team do such a great job with that, and it does help to phase it out and have the revisits and the coaching and helping people because we have turnover too, with the staff. And so that also helps with that too. So talk a little bit about how this also makes a difference in the lives of our residents that live with us.

Eilleen 12:28
The difference should start from the time they walk in that door. So it’s important that we are making a difference in their life through mind, body, spirit and community. We have somebody with a dementia diagnosis that is walking into this brand new environment. So right off the bat, knowing how we are speaking to someone that we’re not throwing out memory care all the time, right. This is a supportive environment. Can you imagine that if we had a disease and all you hear all day long, is that name of that around you.

So that mind piece of it and knowing and being able to address and validate that there could be fear in walking into a new home. So that we’re not just saying, oh, come over here and do something. If we see that somebody is feeling sad, that we sit down and lean into sad. This must be really difficult. How are you feeling right now? And if they’re happy, which happens that we’re leaning into happy. And what does happy look like? And we know that that can change throughout the day. What a difference that makes right from the start.

The smells that are in community and as well as the way that we use smells when somebody walks into our community and even goes to the dining room and is seated at the dining room. So we use orange-scented or lemon-scented washcloths. And it’s twofold. It’s to wash their hands and cleanse their hands and it’s also to get that smell going because we know that that smell will stimulate their appetite. So we’re able to stimulate that appetite. And it’s funny, Natalie Kunkel is one that works closely in our Symphony of Life program, and she brought up something I will never forget. She said “Smells that can bring back good memories are not necessarily. Those are cookies and sunshine.” So she used to work on cars with her dad, and that was a really good memory. So the smell of a garage and motor oil and things like that bring back really good memories for her.

So that’s an important piece of knowing. So that’s another piece of what we do. Do we know our residents that are coming in? Do we know what they enjoy? Do we know what they did for a living? Do we know what made them happy? Do we know what made them sad? So those smells and that environment that we have around them, it changes their lives. And I’m going to even go back to the care and how we’re caring for someone. So do we know do they like a really hot shower? Do they like to have music? Did they used to turn on their radio when they got in the shower, or did they turn on their TV before they got in the shower?

Spiritual engagements: Maybe it’s not church, maybe it’s meditation. So knowing someone and making a difference in their lives, that’s how this program helps our residents and their family members.

Lori 16:27
Wonderful. And I totally agree. And I love that 12 Oaks is investigating some platforms that will help support getting all of that information and that history as we improve on engagement with our residents and make sure that we are capturing that all important history so that we can continue to tap into all these pieces of their well-being.

Eileen, thank you very much for joining me today on the podcast. I appreciate you as always, and you have been a staple at 12 Oaks. And your wisdom and your experience has been instrumental in growing our programming and growing our team and our Solutions department. So thank you very much. And, I appreciate it.

Eilleen 17:10
Thank you. I appreciate you. Thank you.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Roots podcast by 12 Oaks. Get connected with us on social media and at 12Oaks.com.