The Roman poet Virgil once said, “The greatest wealth is health.” At Plymouth Harbor we couldn’t agree more and our Wellness Center promotes that mindset in countless ways—through group fitness, whole-person wellness, social activities, and much more.

From its formal inception in 2011, Plymouth Harbor’s wellness program was designed to evolve. As we approach Plymouth Harbor’s 50th anniversary next year, we thought it would be fun to take a look back and see just how far fitness and wellness have come from those early days.

Back in the Day

While it was state-of-the-art at the time, retirement living back in 1966 (when Plymouth Harbor first opened its doors) looked quite different than it does today. Back then, physically-passive, socially-oriented activities like walking, gardening, and shuffleboard were the norm. Plymouth Harbor’s Activities Department offered a weekly exercise class and, in later years, resident Lois Droege, with her background in physical education, led a popular group fitness class for residents.

july-wellnessTimes changed, and by 2005, later generations were expressing a desire for more comprehensive fitness programming. The opportunities they were enjoying at the local YMCA or other health clubs weren’t available at Plymouth Harbor; Marketing was hearing this from prospects and their families as well.

A 2011 resident survey revealed that one of residents’ top three priorities was a wellness center with professional staff and programming. Residents wanted updated equipment, knowledgeable instructors, and a variety of fitness classes. Next step? Making it happen.

Our philosophy was “develop the program and they will come.” The brick and mortar would come later. The first step was recruiting a wellness professional, with the proper credentials and experience with a senior population, who could build a program from the ground up. Enter Chris Valuck in September 2011.  As planned, by April 2013, Chris had developed the program to the point that a second full-time staff member was needed and Amanda Kirk joined the team.

By May 2013, a capital campaign was underway and the funds needed for the cost for a new, state-of-the-art wellness center had been donated by generous residents and staff. In September 2014, Plymouth Harbor’s beautiful ‘new’ Wellness Center opened its doors. By November 2014, Chris and Amanda, along with seven other staff members,  were helping to develop Plymouth Harbor’s employee wellness program, OnBoard. 

Wellness Today

With experienced and knowledgeable staff onsite, residents receive a multitude of benefits, including personalized fitness assessments, weekly orientations, and enhanced programming—including both group fitness and other physical activities.

Resident fitness assessments are conducted for each new resident, whether in-home or in the Wellness Center. After assessments are completed, resident records are created and maintained, including documents such as consent forms, waivers, guidelines, medical clearances, medical history, and exercise logs. Today, the Wellness department is in a position where they can also offer re-assessments to current residents, upon request.

With the help of contracted instructors, the Wellness Center offers at least 10 separate fitness classes each month, some of which meet two to three times per week. Chris is onsite to teach some; however, contracting with qualified instructors allows the Wellness department to offer specialized classes in areas like Tai Chi and ballroom dancing that might not otherwise be available. Countless hours are spent researching, contacting, and vetting these individuals, to ensure residents are receiving the highest possible quality of exercise.  In addition to monthly classes, Wellness staff researches, organizes, and conducts both off-site and on-site events, including last year’s Wellness Week, field trips, kayaking, and more.

Community outreach and networking with other local fitness centers and CCRCs is conducted on a regular basis to keep programming up-to-date. To promote both Plymouth Harbor and wellness in the greater community, Chris and Amanda also serve as “The Face of Wellness” at receptions and events to assist the Plymouth Harbor marketing team. The two additionally contribute monthly to the Harbor Light, and have prepared, designed, and produced numerous take-home brochures and guidelines for increased in-home fitness for residents.

Wellness in the Future

As time passes, there continues to be a resident desire for added programming. Residents can expect the Wellness Center to adapt and improve to meet these requests—through continued research, and an emphasis on unique classes and events. One resident-requested improvement in particular that will be implemented, is the expansion of outdoor physical activities (like the popular beach walk or kayaking) into regular programming.  You can look forward to seeing these types of activities more often, as well as new, never-been-done-before activities like visits to local state parks. Residents can also expect additional group fitness classes, such as the desired tap dancing class. These unique forms of physical activity promote exercise in an interesting, social environment and we hope they will inspire and encourage more residents to participate in physical activity to enhance their well-being.

With a higher resident demand for in-home fitness, a “Wellness Center Exercise Series” is also in process, which will encompass a series of exercise booklets and DVDs of the most popular wellness classes. As of now, the Line Dancing DVD is complete, and Sit Fit and Better Balance are in the works. Stay tuned for additions to this series. Along those same lines, the long-awaited Preferred Professionals Program is now available. Designed to meet resident requests for personalized services (including personal training, Pilates, yoga, dance, and massage), residents can expect this brochure in their mailbox in just a few short weeks.

Wellness goes beyond the four walls of Plymouth Harbor. For that reason, the Wellness department is collaborating with staff to offer an internship program to qualified students studying Exercise Science. They are also planning to offer a Harbor Club program, where members are allowed special access to participate in popular Wellness activities.

We’ve come a long way since 1966, and we plan to keep evolving to meet your needs. Stay tuned for updates on new programs and activities, and please continue to share ideas and enthusiasm with staff.

By Barbara Leverone

wellnes12Only within the past few decades have scientists begun to embrace the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Prior to this, it was believed that after childhood, adult brain anatomy was fixed, only changing in the direction of decline.

Dr. Michael Merzenich, considered to be one of the world’s leading researchers in the field today, has repeatedly validated, along with many others, that the adult brain, in response to experience, is indeed plastic and capable of change.

Dr. Norman Doidge, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and research faculty member at both Columbia University and the University of Toronto, went wellnes1on to explore this hypothesis. He documented Merzenich’s experiments along with many other leading-edge scientists in his 2007 best-selling book, The Brain That Changes Itself. In Dr. Doidge’s most recent book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, he continues to explore the brain’s highly dynamic ability to heal when stimulated by noninvasive use of light, sound, vibration, and movement. Using everyday language, he writes about successful treatment protocols for numerous conditions including Parkinson’s, stroke, multiple sclerosis, balance issues, and chronic pain.

He devotes a chapter of his book to Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), a pioneer in the field of neuroplasticity. As early as 1949, Dr. Feldenkrais wrote that the brain could form new neural pathways to organize itself in response to demands of the environment. Dr. Feldenkrais even created a method that uses movement lessons as a stimulus to develop new options for thinking, feeling, sensing, and doing.

Learn to move with ease and efficiency, and also improve posture and flexibility through the gentle, exploratory movements of The Feldenkrais Method. Discover how mindful, novel movements can create new neural pathways, and experience firsthand the power of neuroplasticity.

To read a portion of Dr. Doidge’s chapter on Dr. Feldenkrais, click here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Elaine Litherland, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Doidge, M.D., Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself. New York:
Penguin, 2007. Print
Doidge,M.D., Norman. The Brain’s Way of Healing. New York:
Penguin, 2015. Print.

While Wellness is a  priority at Plymouth Harbor 365 days and 52 weeks of every year, we will be celebrating our second annual WELLNESS WEEK April 20 through 24.

Each day during Wellness Week will see at least one special, out-of-the-ordinary activity for all to enjoy.  Take a look at the schedule and plan your own week!


djembeMonday, April 20
Drum Circle

Gather with friends and experience a fun and healing drum session led by Jana Broder.  Beautiful djembe drums will be provided.

Time:   2:00-3:00 p.m.
Location:   Outdoor area near the bocce court/pool.  In the event of inclement weather, Wellness Center Group Fitness Studio.



IMG_1154Tuesday, April 21

Enjoy an adventurous morning kayaking through the beautiful mangrove tunnels just south of Plymouth Harbor’s backyard.  Single and tandem kayaks are available.

Time:  Meet in lobby 8:30 a.m.
Return around 11:30 a.m.
Cost:   $65/person: includes a kayak and 2-hour guided tour.
Sign-up by calling Amanda x350 by April 13th. Space is limited!



mote boatWednesday, April 22
Mote Boat Tour

Join a marine biologist on a cruise through Sarasota and Roberts Bay to observe manatees and bottlenose dolphins while learning about the ecology, history, and area folklore. On-board restrooms and comfortable seating are available.

Time:   Meet in lobby 9:15 a.m.
Return around 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $37/person
Sign up by calling Amanda x350 by April 13


jaszz bandThursday, April 23
Dine, Dance & All that Jazz

It’s time to break out your dancing shoes!  Enjoy an evening of dinner and dancing with your friends and neighbors, enjoying music by the Al Hixon Jazz Quartet with a special guest performance by resident Carl Denney. You won’t want to miss this!

Time:  6:00-9:00 p.m.
Location: Mayflower Dining Room
Cost: $30/person
Make your reservation by calling Dining Services x258

brain-fitness-introFriday, April 24
Quick Witz Brain Game

Guest presenter Becky McLaughlin will explain the concept behind this mental fitness program designed to maximize mental ability.  You’ll enjoy the challenging, hands-on, interactive activities designed to help the aging brain get sharp and stay sharp!

Time:  10:00-11:15 a.m.
Location:  Club Room
No sign-up required.


Bocce1-267x300Friday, April 24
Outdoor Game Party

Come and play a variety of outdoor games like bean bag toss, ladder golf, skittles, and bocce.  Healthy snacks & refreshments will be provided.  Come out and play, or just cheer on your neighbors!

Time:   3:00-5:00 p.m.
Location:   Bocce Court

No sign-up required.

Teepa Snow TrainingPlymouth Harbor prides itself in being a leader in so many ways, so it should not be surprising that as steps are being taken to develop expanded assisted living and memory care, we are stepping out further than most.

We’ve already begun to increase the level of intensive instruction for all clinical staff so that they are adept at interacting with and providing the best of care for residents with dementia.  At Plymouth Harbor our goal is even larger.  We are committed to providing some level of training to all staff  in all departments, to develop a deeper understanding of the needs of residents with any stage of dementia and to build confidence in how to help each individual feel secure.

Plymouth Harbor has adopted the Positive Approach to Care (PAC) to accomplish this goal.  This model was created by the renowned Teepa Snow and widely recognized as the highest standard of care for those with all forms of dementia.  A wide range of residents, staff, and board members had an opportunity to learn from Teepa first hand during her visit to Plymouth Harbor in January.

After intensive training, Plymouth Harbor staff member, Brandi Burgess, BA, SW, was awarded national certification as a PAC trainer. She will be passing on her in-depth knowledge and experience as the facilitator of all training sessions here at Plymouth Harbor.

There will be twelve training sessions encompassing three levels of instruction.  The level of instruction will vary based on job assignment and the level of interaction with residents.  The first sessions took place on March 4th and March 18th, and included 24 clinical staff members.  The first round of training will continue through June 17, 2015 until all staff have participated.  Training will be offered on an annual basis to refresh skills at various levels of instruction.  In addition, an introduction to PAC will be provided during new staff orientation.

The experiential learning process consists of an adept blending of lecture, discussion, hands on practice, and hand-picked videos to provide information about the physical impact of progressive dementia.  More than once during training, various staff voiced, “so that’s why…”, as they picked up aha! moments and reflected how it applied to the residents with whom they work.

The first session was very well received and those present were anxious to begin using what they had learned!


By Chris Valuck, Wellness Director

strength training for seniorsExercise Resistance training, also known as weight training or strength training, incorporates exercises that build muscular strength and endurance of skeletal muscles (as opposed to cardiovascular exercise that develops heart muscle endurance). These terms include all types of resistance, whether you are using exercise bands/tubes, dumbbells, weight machines, milk jugs, soup cans, or even your own body weight (i.e. push-ups).

A couple of weight training questions that I am frequently asked are, “How much should I lift?” and “How many times should I lift it?” It seems like the answer should be simple, but it really isn’t because so many factors must be taken into account. A good strength training exercise prescription must include functional exercises that will help improve performing activities of daily life; exercises that take into consideration the individual’s goals, ability levels, orthopedic limitations, time constraints; and the list goes on.

The detail involved in this type of programming is too involved to fully discuss in this article. But I will clarify a few in an attempt to answer these two questions, assuming that the goal of the exerciser is muscular strength and endurance—which is the most common reason a person incorporates strength training into their exercise regime. Also, in the box below are evidence-based guidelines by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is the most respected organization in the industry and considered to be the gold standard.

The biggest misconception regarding resistance training is that you must perform “3 sets of 12 reps” for each exercise or you will turn into a pumpkin. Not so! The “3 sets of 12” idea is just a guide. In fact, for an older population, just 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps may be more suitable. Research shows that the average adult will develop strength and endurance when they use a resistance that is challenging between 8-12 reps. The power lifter or bodybuilder who is only interested in strength might use a resistance so heavy that he cannot perform the exercise more than 2-6 reps and the exerciser interested only in endurance may use a load that is not challenging until 15+ reps are achieved. But because the average person would like muscular strength and endurance, we recommend a middle range of 8-12 repetitions (or 10-15 for an older or deconditioned population).

Once you determine the goal (i.e. muscular strength and endurance), then you determine the resistance required to safely challenge the muscle in that range, which in this case is 8-15 reps. The key word is “challenged.” This means not just doing the exercise 12 times, hopping to the next exercise, 12 times, and so on. It means that with each subsequent set, you should feel that the muscle is beginning to tire and you cannot safely do another. This is what we call momentary muscle fatigue, the point at which the muscle is being challenged to do more than it already can do on a daily basis. The result is increased strength over time. If you simply “count reps” and never challenge the muscle with a tiny bit more weight over time, you will not realize any strength gains, but simply remain where you are. I suppose that at least you can say you’re maintaining your current strength, but most people want to improve strength.

We’ve addressed repetitions and resistance, but now let’s look at sets, which are groups of repetitions. Most group fitness instructors and personal trainers work with the basic guide of “3-sets” of each exercise, providing that only one exercise is being performed for each major muscle group during the exercise session. Again, these exercises vary tremendously and can get very elaborate, but let’s just stick with the basic program which is three sets or less for each major muscle group.

If you choose to do three sets for a particular muscle group and you subscribe to the theory that each repetition should take some effort, then it stands to reason that you would not be able to do 12 repetitions in the second set and definitely not in the third if you are becoming increasingly, but safely, fatigued. More realistically, an effective workout session for any particular muscle group that consists of three sets would look more like this: 12 reps attained in the 1st set;  now a rest period because you should be a little bit tired. In the 2nd set you might only able to perform 10 or 11 reps, and in the 3rd set maybe only 8-9 reps. Is this making more sense?

The above theory is the hardest to convey to the exerciser, but it’s the most important if your goal is to increase strength and endurance. So, the next time you’re in one of the group fitness classes or using the Keiser equipment, ask yourself, “Am I just going through the motions, or am I safely challenging myself enough to make a difference?”

Begin with a 5-7 minute warm-up, consisting of continuous movement (i.e. walking or cycling).

Frequency: 2-3 days per week, working each major muscle group

Sets: Older Population: 1-2 sets of 10-15 rep of each exercise. Most Other Adults: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise.

 Weight lifted should be “challenging” but attainable within the repetition range.
 Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.  Allow a day of rest between strength-training sessions (48 hours).
 Work large muscles first (chest, back, legs); then smaller muscles (shoulders, arms).
 Use proper body alignment and maintain slow, controlled movement.
 Use proper breathing technique: exhale on exertion and never hold your breath.
 Gradual progression of greater resistance, and/or more repetitions per set, and/or increasing frequency is recommended as strength increases.

Pescatello, L., Arena, R., Riebe, D., & Thompson, P. (Eds.). (2014). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th ed., p. 185). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

By Chris Valuck

reformerThe Wellness Center has a new piece of exercise equipment, The Pilates Reformer.   Located in the group fitness room, you cannot ignore its ominous presence.  It has been met with curiosity and hesitation by residents who have never seen a Reformer,  but greeted with a gush of excitement by residents that up until now had to go off campus to receive private instruction on the Reformer.  Now, not only can we offer an opportunity for residents to have their instructor come to them, but residents who participate in a group  Mat Pilates Class at the YMCA and HealthFit, can look forward to a similar class coming soon to the Wellness Center. The Mat Pilates Class consists of a series of floor exercises that were the precursor to the Reformer.  The Pilates Method has an interesting history that I thought I would share.

Joseph Pilates was born in 1883 in Germany.  Although growing up with athletic, health-centered parents (his Greek father was a gymnast and his mother a naturopath) he was a very sickly child, suffering from many illnesses.  With early poor health being the impetus, he devoted his life to the pursuit of a strong, healthy body through physical fitness.  He grew to become quite an athlete, participating in several sports such as gymnastics, skiing, and body-building.

Joseph Pilates, 1883-1967 At the age of 29, Pilates moved to England and earned a living as a boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer for police schools and Scotland Yard.  Nevertheless, he was interned during WWI with other German citizens and while confined he taught wrestling and self-defense to fellow inmates.  It was here that he began developing a fitness program with minimal equipment.  Basically, a series of floor exercises that evolved into a whole system of exercises that he called “Contrology.”  He trained his fellow inmates and even incorporated yoga into their routines.  It has been said that inmates who trained with Pilates survived the 1918 flu pandemic due to their good physical health.

After WWI. Pilates returned to Germany and collaborated with experts in dance and physical exercise.  When pressured to train members of the German army, he left his native country, and emigrated to the United States in 1925.  On the ship he met his future wife, Clara.  They opened a studio in New York City and directly taught their students into the 1960’s promoting “Contrology,” which is the use of the mind to focus and control core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. Clara and Pilates developed a loyal following within the dance and performing arts community in New York.  Their devotees included George Balanchine and Martha Graham, who regularly sent their students to Pilates for training and rehabilitation.  After Pilates became known for training ballerinas for flexibility, strength, and stamina, society women flocked to his studio on 8th Ave.  To this day, around the world, dancers and people from all walks of life continue to practice Joseph Pilates’ methods to control the movement of their bodies by creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions, building strength and stamina.

Joseph Pilates has written several books, including Return to Life Through Contrology, and as an inventor has 26 patents cited.  The content of this article was taken from the following sources:,,                         –

rehab imageEvery day, in every part of America, there are individuals facing similar challenges transferring from medically supervised rehabilitation care in a skilled nursing facility back to their “normal” routine at home.

Doctors suggest walking, swimming, low-impact exercise, and even returning to the gym, to regain strength and balance. However, doctors are not trained in exercise physiology and cannot offer the practical advice needed for each individual’s recovery. For this reason, they prefer to send their patients to a supervised rehab facility. Too often, if there is no means of structured support to continue their recovery through exercise once rehab is over, people settle back into a more sedentary lifestyle, resulting in a less than optimal recovery.

Sarah Ross, Physical Therapist, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, a certified expert on exercise for aging adults, works with many of our patients in the Smith Care Center (SCC) during supervised rehabilitation. Sarah says the ideal outcome is for every individual to safely mainstream into an exercise program suited to their body and condition. “Ongoing exercise provides the maintenance program for a happier, more active lifestyle which everyone deserves,” she adds.

“At Plymouth Harbor, our goal is to provide a continuum of care and communication to help residents safely transfer from supervised rehabilitation to ongoing use of the exercise equipment in our Wellness Center,” says Chris Valuck, M.S., ASCM-CES, CWWS Certified, Director of Wellness.

The Wellness Program at Plymouth Harbor, led by Chris Valuck, communicates routinely with SCC Rehab Services, led by Clinical Manager Gina Kanyha.  When a resident in rehab expresses an interest in actively pursuing their recovery by using the facilities in the Wellness Center, a connection is made with Chris Valuck to confer on individual rehab needs and requirements.

While the Wellness Center staff do not provide one-on-one physical training, they are on hand to monitor and attend to resident needs in the strength-training area.  They have found the communication with SCC Rehab Services goes both ways. “It is not uncommon for a resident to share their concern about an observed pain or decreased mobility,” shares Chris. “I can then refer them to Sarah or the other physical therapists in the Smith Care Center where they can receive out-patient rehab services.”

“I like to bring patients over to the Wellness Center before we release them so that I can encourage their use of the Wellness Center and provide an initial orientation to the equipment best suited to their rehab and medical issues,” says Sarah.

One resident shared, “In rehab, I liked the security of knowing that someone (a physical therapist) was there to push me to do things that I didn’t realize I was even capable of doing.  Things (exercises) I would not have dreamed of trying.”  She went on to say that she was encouraged and challenged throughout the process and considered it a great opportunity to learn and continue her exercise program in the Wellness Center once her physical therapy ended.  Her ‘transition’ experience from Rehab Services to the Wellness Center?  “It all just fits together!” she exclaimed.

That’s what it is all about: one smooth transition of care with the goal of optimal health for all residents.

valentines-day-hearts-3There is something special about Valentine’s Day.  Think of “hearts” as a conservation issue.  Your heart, that is.  Insofar as you are able, exercise your heart. Walk to St. Armands Circle.  It is about one-half mile.

  • It is good for you.
  • You will not have to look for a parking space.
  • You will have saved some gas and put no nasty exhaust into the air.

Stairs are a way to get up and down.  Remember?  If you are going up and down a flight or two, use the stairs.  And do use the railings.  (That is, if you are able to climb stairs.)

Not everyone in the tower wants to climb 24 flights for exercise but, in February, the stairs are a warmer place to exercise than the great outdoors.  Elevators use electricity.  If the power should go off again (heaven forbid), it is nice to know that someone can use the stairs to get help.

And “flowers,” a conservation issue?  You can prevent plants and dead cut flowers from taking up space in the landfill by getting them to the huge dumpster in the northeast corner of our parking lot, near the Yacht Club.  If you can remember to keep pots and plastic out of the dumpster, you can take your plant stuff there.  Or you can call Jeanne at Ext 489 and she will cause them to disappear miraculously from outside your door.


Electricity costs twice as much from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Please use washing machines on weekends or in the middle of the day.

By Chris Valuck

670px-Work-out-on-an-Elliptical-Machine-Step-6“Do I really need to know all this?” asked a resident, while preparing to use a piece of exercise equipment in the Wellness Center. “I just want to walk on the treadmill,” she said.

Technically, you don’t have to understand all of the information on the displays of the Nu-Steps, treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals in order to use them.  Most people just like to see how far they’ve gone (distance) and how long it took to do it (time). But, for the residents who have expressed an interest in knowing all about the equipment displays, let’s start with the MET.


A Metabolic Equivalent of Task or MET, is simply the amount of energy it takes to perform a particular activity.  1-MET equals the amount of energy expended during one minute of rest (e.g., sitting calmly or lying down); whereas walking at a moderate pace might be 3-METS, or running might be 11-METS or more, depending on how fast you are going.

MET levels are not only assigned to fitness activities, but also include Activities of Daily Living such as vacuuming, gardening, walking the dog, etc.  If you have ever had a stress test in your doctor’s office, your test results may show a MET level that you accomplished before you needed to stop the test because of fatigue or other symptoms (e.g. cardiac-related).  This MET level may then be used to determine which activities of daily living are most appropriate for your condition.


RPM:  This stands for revolutions per minute.  It is a measure of the frequency of rotation (around a fixed axis).  That’s why you’ll see RPM on the recumbent bike displays, but not on a treadmill.  The RPM go up as you pedal faster and go down when you pedal more slowly.  This is a measure that you might want to monitor if your goal is to maintain a certain speed over a period of time.

SPM:  Here’s where it gets a little confusing.  SPM stands for steps per minute when on the Nu-Step and strides per minute when on the elliptical.  On the elliptical, 2 strides equal 1-RPM (if you are interested in converting this measure). In either case, just like the RPM on the bikes, the harder you work, the higher the number.

WATT:  When you see WATT displayed on the cardio equipment, it is a measure of work or effort produced by the exerciser.  So, the higher the watt, the more power being produced.

Bottom line:  On any given piece of cardiovascular equipment, find a speed that is challenging, but attainable.  You should be working at a level that still allows you to carry on a conversation (we call this “the talk test”).  You should also be able to rate your own perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10.  Aim for a light-to-moderate intensity of about 3-4 (out of 10) on the Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.  For more details, on the RPE Scale, pick up a copy in the Wellness Center.



Health Services plays a vital role in providing residents with the support they need in the continuum of care at Plymouth Harbor. Whether having their blood pressure checked on the way back from a morning fitness class, or recuperating in the Smith Care Center after a brief illness, knowing that qualified, caring health care professionals are on-site and just a phone call away provides residents with the sense of security they need to freely engage in an active, satisfying lifestyle. 

Teepa Snow TeachingIt starts with the touch of your hand.  One of the hallmarks of the Positive Approach to Care™ taught by Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia, is the Hand-Under-Hand™ technique of connecting physically with an individual living with dementia. With thumbs interlocked, established nerve pathways in the hand are engaged, and by holding hands in this manner while helping to dress or feed, or guide the individual, the caregiver allows him or her to still feel in control and subtly connect eye-hand skills.

As yet another step is taken down the path of developing world-class memory care services at Plymouth Harbor, Brandi Burgess, the Smith Care Center’s social services coordinator, has undergone extensive training in the Positive Approach to Care™ (PAC) toward certification as a PAC trainer.  The rigorous process included hours of online classes, training videos, periodic testing to pass on to upper level learning modules.

At one critical point in her training during an 8-hour intensive on site at the Pines of Sarasota, Teepa Snow herself was coaching Brandi on how to hold a resident’s hand using the Hand-Under-Hand technique to help them stand up.

“It was inspiring,” Brandi said about learning from this pioneering advocate for those living with dementia. Teepa has made it her personal mission to help families and professionals better understand how it feels to be living with the challenges and changes that accompany various forms of dementia so that life can be lived fully and well.

Her philosophy is reflective of her education, work experience, available medical research, and first hand caregiving interactions. Working as a Registered Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, Teepa’s wealth of experience has led her to develop  Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) techniques and training models that now are used by families and professionals working or living with dementia throughout the world.

Challenged to describe the Positive Approach to Care (PAC) in one sentence, Brandi gamely responded, “The core philosophy of PAC is to recognize and celebrate the strengths that remain at each stage of dementia and learn how we can continue to connect with the individual in a meaningful way.”

Of course, there are many layers of understanding in the Positive Approach to Care (PAC) and Brandi was challenged in many other ways as she worked to earn her certification. Guided by a PAC mentor, she proved her proficiency with various techniques by videotaping herself working directly with residents. At the end of the full day intensive she had to develop and present an in-service training. On another occasion, she videotaped a training session she conducted for colleagues in the Smith Care Center in order to satisfy the program requirements.

On December 4, Teepa Snow’s team at Positive Approach officially notified Brandi that she has passed all program requirements and was now a certified PAC™ trainer.

Now it’s time for the real work to begin!  Brandi is now responsible for the ambitious goal of providing Positive Approach training for all staff at Plymouth Harbor.  All clinical staff, between 60 and 70 individuals, will receive two full, 8 hour days of training which will start in March 2015.  Limiting the classes to 24 students, Brandi will be conducting three separate waves of the two-class series. That’s six full days of teaching!

Next, Brandi will train all staff that have direct contact with residents in the Smith Care Center and the Callahan Center. Direct contact staff will receive one full day of Positive Approach Care™ training.

Finally, all other employees, from dining staff to security and all levels of management, will benefit from a two-hour introduction and basic skills training in Positive Approach Care™.

It sounds exhaustive, but we are developing a culture of world-class care for our residents of all cognitive abilities. Teepa Snow will be visiting Plymouth Harbor on Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

Residents are invited to an afternoon session with Teepa from 1:00 — 2:30 pm in Pilgrim Hall. The program is titled, It’s All in the Approach: Learning to Care, Live, and Laugh During the Stages of Dementia.  

Registration is required. Please call (941) 361-7252 to register. If you care to bring your loved one, please register them, as we will also host a separate supervised interactive Drum Circle for persons with dementia during the presentation, followed by refreshments.