At Prestige, our memory care communities engage residents with our award-winning wellness program Expressions. The program is overseen at each community by an Expressions Director, and at Prestige Senior Living at Mira Loma, LeTeefia Norman holds that title.
In this interview we talk to her about what her job entails, her approach to memory care, activities the residents enjoy and her background.
As an Expressions Director, can you tell us about the program and the Best Friends Approach, how you incorporate them, and what they mean to you?
LeTeefia Norman: “The Best Friends Approach is great because it gives us a chance to gain the trust of the residents. When we have residents who are brand new, they’re scared, they don’t know anybody. It’s good for them when they see somebody who’s inviting… and then giving them the chance to let them express themselves how they wish. They know that they have that trust with us.
A lot of the time they’re saying, ‘I want to go home’, but it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they really want to go home. They mean, ‘I want to be comfortable, I want to be able to trust you, I want someone to love me’.
So sometimes that ‘I want to go home’, it’s just as simple as a grab of the hand and taking a stroll, and it means the world to them. And for us, it’s a bit of redirection. And maybe we solved it by taking them to the bathroom, because ‘I want to go home’ could mean they need to go to the bathroom, or they’re hungry or tired. They don’t always have the words to say what they’re trying to express and ‘I want to go home’ is the easiest one.”
How did it take for you to learn how to interpret that, and figure out what the resident may actually need in that moment?
LN: “Sometimes it is challenging to figure out what they want, especially when you have someone who’s nonverbal… So point and show works very well. Trial and error, you go get them a cup of water, but that’s not what they want. Maybe they slap it out of your hand or even start crying because you didn’t help them, that’s not what they were expecting. So it’s just kind of watching my residents and seeing what they do and how they do things. Especially for my nonverbals, I know when they’re sleepy or when they’re hungry. You might have someone where they just want you to just sit there with them. I guess I have a knack for that.”
In creating the events calendar for the residents, what are some of the residents’ favorite events?
LN: “They like the tea parties, armchair travel and they love our game Balloon Swat. I incorporate the parachute game with our armchair travel. So if the ball comes to them I ask, ‘Where are we going today? What state are we going to visit today?’ and it gets them talking. Some of them don’t say anything and that’s fine, we just go to the next person.”
What is your background in senior care?
LN: “When I was a little girl my mother did home health, and she also worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). And when I was about 16 or 17 I started working in a retirement community in Chicago. I’m originally from Wyoming and had gone and stayed out there for a year.
I worked as dietary aide there and when I went back home, I got my CNA license and I started working as a CNA. I worked for a skilled facility, the hospital part time and I did private duty as well.
And then in about 2004, I had a knee injury. I hurt myself on the job. And then I battled back and forth if I really wanted to continue to do that or not. So I went ahead and went back to school and I got my associates degree in medical office administration. And then over those years I had a total of five knee surgeries; I graduated from the hospital bed… I happened to be just putting in applications, looking for a job and it was Amazon and Prestige. I applied the same day. I got hired for both the same day. So I did both of them for about six months, and then I went full-time with Prestige.”
Having been in the industry for a long time, what sets Prestige apart?
LN: “When you say Prestige Care, it’s a real family here, it really is. Between everyone who works here and our residents and their families, we really do become like a part of their family. The thing for me is with Expressions, you have that moment to slow down and take time to actually figure out who your resident is, and who they were. You know, I love the hundred things about me because it really opens a big picture of their life and you can add to it as we go.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
LN: “The rewarding part for me is that I know I did a good job at the end of the day. My residents are happy. They smile all the time. I set a calm tone here at Prestige Mira Loma…Every day that I come here, I’m happy to be here. It warms my heart to be where I am.”