Director of Barone Alzheimer’s center shares work
On Thursday morning, Angela Barrett, with Barone Alzheimer’s Care Center in Nevada, shared her work as both administrator of Barone and director of finance for both Barone and Moore-Few Care Centers. A native of Girard, Kansas, graduating in 2001 with a degree in finance from Pittsburg State University, she made it clear working at such a center is something personal.
“My grandfather had Alzheimer’s,” said Barrett.
By the time Barrett’s only sibling, her younger brother Rick, was killed while serving in Iraq, her grandfather had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and was living in a nursing care center in Girard.
“The next couple of times my mother went out to visit, he would ask about my brother and myself,” related Barrett. “Mom would say ‘No, no’ to him and do the reality orientation not knowing this wasn’t the right path.”
After the grandfather asked several times about Rick and Angela and was re-told about Rick’s death, he stopped asking about Rick as well as Angela. Instead he asked about Angela’s son and daughter.
During visits, the grandfather thought Barrett’s daughter was Barrett while she was his daughter instead of granddaughter. But if Barrett and her mother visited together, he would be thoroughly confused.
“I wish I had known then what I know now,” said Barrett. “I could have helped my mom, visits wouldn’t have bothered me and I would have known what to say and how to take things.”
At this point she quieted her voice and measured her words as she turned to an analogy she clearly has used with staff and patient families alike.
“When you’re a baby, you can’t speak your parents’ names but you know that they love you and you know that they care for you,” began Barrett.
“By the same token, when you have a loved one who is diagnosed with a degenerative disease they will get to the point that they can’t speak your name but they still know you love them.”
After a pause and a breathe she added, “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity that I do out here. I love the people I work with.”
As she continued to share, it became clear she was not only speaking of staff at Barone or those with whom she coordinates at Moore-Few and Nevada Regional Medical Center but she was most certainly including patient families as well.
She spoke of how, by the time a contact is made with Barone, family members are often physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted.
Said Barrett, “They haven’t had a good night’s sleep in sometimes years.”
She spoke of the family’s constant worry of mom or dad getting out of the house. She spoke of that loved who gets up in the night, thinks it is daytime and begins to cook.
But meal preparation brings with it fears of the stove being left on and forgotten. There is the burning of a pan; there is the start of a fire.
And don’t even mention going outside and wandering off.
Barrett spoke of how real incidents and constant worries affect the health and well-being of family members.
She said, “Being administrator allows me to provide a safe environment for 40 people that need extra love, support and care that their family members can’t supply anymore.”
She pointed out how this also allows for a better visiting experience because family members no longer have to be focused on personal hygiene, medication schedules, meals, laundry, bills, appointments, along with every “what-if” imaginable.
“By freeing them up from all those tasks and worries, all they have to think about is visiting with their loved one, and that makes for visits that are so much better and more enjoyable for everyone,” said Barrett.
Turning the area of admissions, the administrator pointed out Alzheimer’s Disease is actually one of several types of syndromes whose symptoms are grouped under the umbrella term, dementia.
“As long as the person has a documented dementia diagnosis we will screen for admission,” said Barrett.
Prior to any admission, an in-home screening visit is conducted by Social Services Designee, Stacey Lewis, and depending on scheduling, either the Director of Nursing, Melissa Cornell, or the Day Shift Charge Nurse, Sally Toohey.
They meet with the prospective resident and family. An exam will determine the person’s cognitive level, matters related to mobility, the need for adaptive equipment and other significant physical health concerns.
They are also looking at family dynamics to see whether the family is in agreement and ready to bring their loved one to Barone.
“If the family is not ready it is not a good transition but if they are, it is a much smoother transition,” said Barrett.
Due to disease progression, she said a lot of what staff does on a daily basis is what she termed, interpretation of needs.
“And so I look at you and say, ‘I need an umbrella,’ when what I’m really trying to tell you is ‘I need a Kleenex’ but I can’t get those words out.”
She said such interpretation work is quite taxing on the staff and so most prefer eight-hour shifts.
This led Barrett to speak about Barone’s successful transition away from the use of physical restraints and antipsychotic medications.
The new director of nursing, Melissa Cornell, suggested the use of various techniques and equipment.
“Some people in wheelchairs tend to lean forward and either fall out or exhaust themselves trying to use their feet,” explained Barrett.
She said a Broda chair places one’s rear-end low enough the person cannot fall or climb out but instead, sits back, relaxes and just uses feet or hands to propel themselves.
Barrett said another key is watching hard in order to learn most every stimulus which triggers an outburst and learn which ways are most effective at redirecting or calming a resident.
As if being administrator is not enough work, Barrett spends about half of her time overseeing finances for both Barone and Moore-Few Care Centers.
She spoke of the understanding and support she receives from her husband who works at an area bank.
“I jokingly say, he looks at where our money is going to go; I look at where it’s been.”
Recently, she was named the security HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) officer for Barone and Moore-Few, responsible for ensuring that with all paper and electronic health records, privacy and security are maintained.
She closed by saying, “It takes very special people to work at a facility such as ours and between full and part-time, we’ve got 40 of the best of them right here.”