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The Alzheimer’s Resource Center: Growing Relationship-Centered Practices

May 25, 2016

PHI is very happy to be sharing the PHI Coaching Approach® to Communication with the entire staff of the Alzheimer’s Resource Center (ARC) in Plantsville, Connecticut. As a mission-driven organization, the ARC has been a thought leader in expanding supports for people living with dementia, establishing innovative care practices, and training other providers since 1990. As one of the few nonprofit long-term care organizations dedicated exclusively to dementia-related support, the ARC is nationally recognized for its ability to help other organizations develop the types of relational care practices that allow them to better support people living with dementia, as well as their caregivers and loved ones.

Several of the ARC’s direct-care employees, known as care partners, attended an educational session presented by PHI at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston in 2015. In that session, they identified the PHI Coaching Approach® as a potential next step in growing their relationship-centered practices and their commitment to organizational collaboration. The care partners in attendance approached PHI presenter Kathleen Scott to continue the discussion.

The timing seemed to be perfect. Over the past year, the ARC had been actively initiating workgroups and developing language related to redesigning their communities. The goal of the redesign was to develop full participation among everyone connected to the center — people who work there, live there, or just visit.

An early element of the redesign was the “Dialogue Project,” an effort to lay the groundwork for a collaborative, as opposed to a top-down, decision-making framework. The Dialogue Project began by identifying elements of well-being that the community felt would enhance their living and working environment. Participants identified a variety of neighborhood goals, some of which centered around the themes of meaningful communication, trust, and deep relationships. The PHI Coaching Approach to Communication appeared to offer an opportunity for staff to do more than acknowledge the importance of these themes: the PHI Coaching Approach would provide the skills staff would need to strengthen communication, build trust, and deepen relationships.

In order to introduce the PHI Coaching Approach throughout their neighborhoods, the ARC selected eight trainers who would work closely with Director of Learning Jenna Weiss. Once Jenna and the eight other trainers completed the eight-day customized train-the-trainer program, they immediately embarked on facilitating a series of one-day workshops that would allow all staff to participate in a communications training within a three- to four-week period. Each neighborhood participated together in the workshops, in groups of 6-8 care partners. Through the workshops, participants used self-reflection and skill practice to begin developing the closer relationships that they aspired to.

The training’s afternoon practicum component introduced a newfound level of vulnerability and deepened relationships further. The ability to coach and be coached allowed an essential shift in how care partners related to one another. The curriculum built upon personal sharing throughout the day, allowing participants to develop trust. Care partner groups from all levels of the organization expressed a positive buzz about the workshops. Each group looked forward to their opportunity to participate.

The Alzheimer’s Resource Center believes the PHI Coaching Approach to Communication is an essential component of their neighborhood redesign. It will enhance their already existing practices so that each care partner can empathically support each other, and therefore, better support the elders and family members they serve.

— by Kathleen Scott, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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