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Education in everyday caring makes a difference

Bold mission statements make for strong outcomes.

Environmental Services staff member Deanna Bedwell assists Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara in her room.

That’s why Providence Health Care and the Sisters of Providence HOME team created and live by this mission statement: to create at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods a campus-wide, positive culture of aging that is life-affirming, person-directed and enhances overall well-being.

Providence Health Care and Sisters of Providence administrators, staff and volunteers bring this mission statement to life by their readiness, involvement and dedication.

Educating makes a difference

Education is also vital for the mission’s success, one focus of which is on care for campus residents living with dementia.

Environmental Services staff members Deanna Bedwell and Bayja Stone assist Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara.

All learning depends on good teachers. HOME’s good teachers include registered nurses, a well-being coordinator, a clinical care coordinator and activity directors. These certified dementia care practitioner trainers teach staff of Providence Health Care and the Sisters of Providence about physical and emotional aspects of dementia and methods of care. Dementia care seminar topics include: dementia, diagnosis, treatment; communication, feelings; depression; repetitive behaviors; hallucinations; wandering; aggressive behaviors; personal care; family support; spiritual care and end of life issues.

Sister Peggy Nau with Providence Health Care staff members (left to right) Karen Jones, Carolyn Ferrand and Raquel McGee.

Lessons learned

Good teachers touch students’ minds and hearts despite heavy subject matter. Staff members who participated in training share what they learned and how it makes a difference in their everyday caregiving:

Remember. It’s not a child-to-adult relationship but an adult-to-adult relationship. ** Don’t take any behaviors personally.** Build trust by spending time with each person.** Learn to read the cues of a person. A non-verbal person may ordinarily smile as a greeting; but if there’s no smile, she’s having a bad time of it.

Staff also shared experiences that come from the heart. One woman wants to be dressed up. She won’t wear casual clothes. It made sense once we learned she was a school secretary and dressed up every day of her life. Now we make sure she has the clothes she prefers. **A resident won’t eat at meals. I don’t insist she eat; but later I make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cup of cocoa because I know she loves both of them.**I was helping a resident in her room and she became very angry with me. I apologized and left the room. When I returned a while later, we were friends again. 

Not getting upset

Double blessings: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College music therapy students engage sisters in musical activities using percussion instruments. The instruments were donated to the Sisters of Providence by a loving donor in honor of Sister Ellen Madigan. Sister Mary Lee Mettler and Joann Quinkert, above left and below left, and Sister Barbara Doherty, above, reap the benefits of these blessings of time and treasure.

**I’ve learned how “to take” some of the behavior that used to upset me like being yelled at or called names. Now I don’t get upset because I understand why it happens.**I took one sister with me on my rounds of the building. We’d always stop at the Shrine of Mother Theodore to pray. Then we’d go to the dining room and have a Coke and just talk. **I sometimes pray with the sisters. And I love to see how peaceful the sisters are in church. 


**Sundown syndrome is common in persons living with dementia. I notice the worst times of day for a person and find ways to lessen the agitation. Just walking with someone can lessen the stress. 

Thanks to a gift in memory of Jack Gallo and Dorothy Pareti, father and aunt of Sister Regina Gallo, Sister Edna Scheller enjoys all the educational and entertaining programs available on the IN2L (It’s Never Too Late) machine.

**Now I understand dementia as a disease so I feel more confident in dealing with the ways it’s expressed in a person — different behaviors in each person. **I just want to be kind and helpful no matter what.

Bold mission statements make for strong outcomes. Our strong and compassionate staff people make the mission come alive — every day.

(Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Avatar Kathy Hedden on January 19, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I worked for the Sisters of Providence/ Providence Heath Care starting out as a nursing assistant in 1988 and eventually Eviromental Services Coordinator until 2007. When I had to leave because of health reasons. It’s so heartwarming to visit this site and see what is happening. I miss working there so very much!

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