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Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Ask The Expert: Interview with Inspired Memory Care

By Jessica Deng

Presented in Partnership with Inspired Memory Care

Inspired Memory Care, Inc. (IMC) is a NYC-based memory care training and consulting firm founded on the belief that individuals living with cognitive change and their care partners are valued and valuable members of society. As such, they deserve access to life-enriching, esteem-building experiences, pursuing their passions each day.Join us this month as we ask Co-Founder of Inspired Memory Care at Inspired Memory Care: Nettie Harper about her expertise in the healthcare industry specifically memory care and the significant changes that Inspired Memory Care has provided to this field and individuals affected by cognitive changes.

LifeWorx: Tell us about your journey into the field of Memory Care. How did you end up working at Inspired Memory Care?

Nettie: I was unexpectedly inspired to work with elders while doing some volunteer work while attending college at the University of Florida. Go Gators! The magical moment I walked through the doors of an adult day program and met the wonderful people on the other side changed my life forever. I volunteered three times a week and developed a passion for working with elders living with memory impairment over the next six months. At that point, I was inspired to plan for a future in eldercare, becoming a Recreation Therapist so I would have the honor of both working with individuals living with memory impairment and learning from their wisdom.  My career focus has been to highlight elders’ strengths and self-worth through well-designed programming.

For over 20 years, my heart has been focused on the fields of memory care and recreation therapy. Some of the professional experiences I’ve had include securing New York State grants to improve the quality of dementia care services in skilled nursing facilities, developing globally implemented training programs, and holding the positions of Vice President of Operations, Director of Recreation, and Alzheimer’s Unit Director for some of the most well-regarded memory care programs in Florida and New York.  I have worked in a variety of settings including Home Care, Skilled Nursing Homes, Adult Day Cares, Assisted Living Residences, and Managed Long Term Cares (MLTC).

Seven and half years ago, everything truly changed in my career.  A colleague, Kelly Gilligan, whom I truly respected in the industry approached me about starting our own business.  To be honest I thought she was nuts.  However, today, I realize it was the best decision we could have ever made.

Co-Founders of Inspired Memory Care – Nettie Harper & Kelly Gilligan

LifeWorx: Inspired Memory Care provides support and educational content to families and the community about cognitive changes. What significant changes or growth have you seen since you joined Inspired Memory Care?

Nettie: Kelly and I are the co-founders of Inspired Memory Care, Inc. (IMC). We have built IMC from the ground up.  Initially, we were a bit narrower in our thinking.  We had originally thought we would focus on offering our Skills Discovery®, IMC’s strength-based assessment tool.  The idea behind this assessment tool was to support families to see their loved ones living with dementia through a strengths-based lens. Doing so can support them to tap into passions and forge connections using specific tips/techniques.  We have had the honor to coach many families on the implementation of evidence-based techniques. When we realized how much a strength-based, non-pharmacological approach was needed and how much it helped families connect with one another again, we decided to expand our approach to reach clinicians. We have expanded in three ways:

  1. IMC offers continuing education contact hours to social workers, administrators, recreation therapists, and nurses.  We have a wide range of topics however we always approach from the viewpoint of strength-based and non-pharmacological.  We have been able to reach all over the world (as far as New Zealand) with our remote offerings.
  2. As we were about three to four years into building IMC we noticed some of the education or lack of education for clinicians centered on dementia care.  We took this as an opportunity to create focus groups with individuals living with memory impairment and meet with their care partners.  We then began to write curriculum and test the curriculum and we currently offer certification programs in dementia care.
  3. Lastly, one of our most fun programs (and one that brings us great satisfaction in our roles) is our online course series for individuals living with cognitive change.  We offer several course topics with a maximum of six people per class for an opportunity to learn, have fun, and meet new friends.  Our courses include topics such as Art: An Exploration, Poetry Appreciation, The Golden Age of Broadway Musicals and Travel the World.

LifeWorx: Describe your role and responsibilities in providing support and working with individuals with memory impairment.

Nettie: Supporting a small business from the ground up is no small feat.  Kelly and I continue to run all operations of the business from payroll, business development, marketing, website design, team member onboarding/supervision, you name it we learn and do it.  We pride ourselves on continuing to provide direct client services in our practice.  Kelly and I have made it a mission that no matter what happens on the day-to-day, we continue to partner with families and individuals living with cognitive change.  This is what grounds us and keeps us motivated.  Doing so is also how we continue to learn and take evidence-based research to the direct line for implementation.  It’s also important because when we train or offer a continuing education workshop, we can confidently say, “Hey, these techniques work!”

LifeWorx: What’s a project you’re currently working on right now? Why is it meaningful to you?

Nettie: Kelly and I continue to work on expanding our certification program for clinicians to become Certified Dementia Care Partners® (CDCP®).  We realize the more clinicians we are able to certify the more individuals living with dementia and their care partners will be reached and supported.   All care-partners need support, understanding, and recognition in their work, and this is what we feel is our best way to expand that support.

Secondly, and equally as important, is the expansion of our online course offerings for those living with dementia.  Social isolation and lack of stimulation are significant risk factors not only in the development of cognitive change but in its worsening. By creating opportunities for cognitively accessible lifelong learning, we can aid in the preservation of abilities and support the development of friendships later in life.   IMC’s online courses have proven to be a valuable resource for connecting individuals living with memory impairment.  In our very first online class, two individuals learned that they lived in proximity and reached out to one another to arrange visits.  This is what we need more of, creating ways for individuals to connect and continue to find purpose and meaning in their lives after diagnosis!

LifeWorx: What is your proudest moment in your career so far? 

Nettie: I worked in health care for over 20 years before we started Inspired Memory Care, Inc. My proudest moment is continuing, it is the last seven and a half years of co-owning Inspired Memory Care, Inc.  The growth Kelly and I have had as clinicians has been incredible.  However, it has been an unimaginable journey building this company.  We have learned a variety of skills I would have never thought I would try to tackle and then be successful with.  There are a lot of highs and lows in owning your own business, and it has been important to keep an even keel to be successful. Yes, we are proud of our successes; but it is important to not over-celebrate and to keep looking forward. Then, when the lows come, recognize those as opportunities.

IMC provides training and consulting services to support care teams and community organizations in bridging the gap gracefully and efficiently to create a quality of life for anyone touched by cognitive change. IMC serves individuals living with cognitive change and any individual and/or organization that wants to better support this clientele.

Stay tuned for our article next month as part of our Ask the Expert series!

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