Dreams are often born in the darkest night. The tremendous potential for a crooked path to lead us to our life’s passion is all too often overlooked. I learned this lesson shortly after my 40th birthday, when I made a life-altering decision to make a career change. I accepted a job as the Executive Director of a residential Memory Care facility – a far cry from the general health care management roles of the past 10 years. I took a leap of faith that ended up being a long, dark plunge.
It took a mere six months in my new role to discover that while more than 50% of individuals residing in Assisted Living residences are living with some form of Dementia, the state Regulations in most states have not been raised to require care appropriate for the higher level of need of those with Alzheimer’s and other types of memory impairment. In fact, most states do not consider facility based Memory Care to be health care. The families I served simply did not know what they were getting into when they placed their loved ones in Memory Care.
The growing need for more and more care frightened me. Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 69 seconds. If we aren’t getting it right now, what will we do in 5, 10, 15 years? In a world where pretty draperies were being marketed as quality care, we were failing to meet the growing need of the residents.
Shortly thereafter, I stumbled onto Maria Shriver’s Blog and read the words, “Architect of Change” and just for a moment, allowed myself to daydream. I imagined a Memory Care industry that marketed based on their quality and trust ratings, rather than pretty furniture & matching draperies. What if Memory Care providers stepped up to be rated on real-life quality of care efforts – in spite of the Regulations? What if we could go from care for profit to profiting from care? I began to build, in my mind’s eye, the plans for a new era of Memory Care and I wondered, “Is this just a pipe dream?”
I was immediately reminded of the words of my favorite author, James Allen. “The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
On that night, I asked myself, “If not me – then who?” On that night, Trusted Memory Care was born.
Trusted Memory Care is a series of standards written in an effort to raise the bar in the quality of care for individuals with memory impairments. Calling on the Assisted Living industry to step up their game by voluntarily obtaining quality ratings based on their standards in five categories — Staffing, Training & Continuing Education, Memory Care Programming, Safety/Environmental & Outreach — the program provides a ladder structure to a higher level of care and gives consumers a real benchmark while searching for a Memory Care environment.
The work of every architect begins with a dream…a vision. Ms. Shriver’s “Architect of Change” campaign created the momentum for mine and helped me see a glimpse of what is possible.
As a society, we have a choice to make. Will we commit to delivering the care we know is appropriate? Will we rate those we’ve entrusted with the care of our loved ones? Will we make not only a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease a national priority, but also the care of people already afflicted? I believe we will. I dreamed it.
Abigail Van Buren said, “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” I’d like to add, “…and how he treats people who won’t remember him tomorrow.”