This week, we’d like to switch gears a bit and throw a spotlight on Joshua Freitas, the Reflections and Engagement Manager. Josh joined us in April and plays a big role in making our communities so vibrant. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation:
What’s a typical day like for the residents you work with?
A typical day for someone in our program involves them being engaged in real life experiences and events that affect their community. Members of our Resident Hiring Committee, for example, are actively involved in interviewing potential job candidates to make sure they’re a good fit. Our Outing Planning Committee members help research and select potential excursion destinations that will appeal to a broad range of interests. We find this type of engagement can slow down the progression of dementia, and call this our mindful and non-pharmacological approach.
What got you interested in working in senior care?
I actually fell into senior care, having started my career as a music therapist. An early client of mine was an elderly woman with dementia who had lost her ability to play piano; when she was able to play again after six months of therapy, I realized that people with dementia are still able to learn. From there I obtained a full-time job as a Senior Program Director involved in conducting research on seniors with dementia – and the rest is history. This is definitely my calling and what I want to be doing.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is seeing how our residents are able to truly flourish and enjoy such a wonderful quality of life. I spend most of my time in communities and so I’ve seen lots of success stories. One resident in particular, who spent her life as a tap dancer, sees me every week and teaches me short routines. She often performs for her fellow community members. This lovely woman now calls me by name, and the first thing she says to me each week is “I hope you have been practicing!”
What’s something you’ve done recently to change the Reflections and Engagement program?
First, we’re placing more emphasis on engagement rather than passive activities, as part of our mindful and non-pharmacological approach to slow down symptom progression. We’ve developed over 50 small group-based curricula grounded in the four pillars of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social engagement. Wherever necessary, we’re also implementing a more dignified approach to residents’ living experience – replacing bibs and napkins with scarves, for example.
You’ve recently written a book; what inspired you to do that?
The book, called The Dementia Concept, is meant to shed light and insight on all aspects of dementia, from understanding its causes and symptoms to learning practical approaches and meaningful interaction techniques. It’s written primarily for caregivers and hopes to teach people ways to help dementia sufferers become more engaged and active participants in their own lives.
What do you wish you could say to anyone coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s?
I would say it’s OK to be scared – but know there are people to help you stay who you are. There is amazing research being done, and you are not alone. And I’d encourage any caregivers to reach out to us, or come to one of our free educational seminars. We are here to help!
For more information about Josh’s book, go here.