Expanding Excellence in Dementia Care During Critical Year for Seniors

The NBA Mission & Ministry Grant program accepts applications annually in the autumn and awards funds for use in the following year. Mission & Ministry Grant recipients used their 2019-20 funds to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults, youth, and young adults. As the 2019-20 grant period comes to a close, we asked grantees to share a story from the past year of how their communities and organizations benefitted from their award.

In 2019, Juliette Fowler Communities embarked on a transformational journey to become an I’m Still Here® Center of Excellence in Dementia Care in partnership with the internationally recognized Hearthstone Institute. To achieve this high-quality designation, the Fowler team participated in a rigorous six-month onsite training and implementation program. I’m Still Here® encourages engagement and supports quality of life.

While the full breadth of this program was contained in Fowler’s Memory Care Neighborhood, the goal was to spread the dementia-friendly concepts throughout the community. Those concepts are:

  • You are an individual
  • You have purpose
  • Creativity is within
  • Learning is essential

Dementia lives in every neighborhood and care setting at Fowler. Following the initial certification training, the staff at Fowler recognized it was imperative that these concepts be hardwired into every aspect of the community. To accomplish that, would require additional funding for more staff training and family training.

Through NBA’s Mission and Ministry Grant Program, Fowler’s next step in their transformation occurred. In December 2020, the NBA granted Fowler $10,000 to expand the I’m Still Here® methodology into other care areas. Training was also expanded to include family members and other residents. As a result, those seniors living in independent living now recognize the signs of dementia and offer compassionate assistance to neighbors with mild cognitive impairments. Family members now have a better understanding of how to communicate with their loved one. The common response from families was “I wish I knew this sooner.”

In January 2020, Fowler staff participated in the Leader and Learner Workshop at First Christian Church in McKinney hosted by the North Texas Area of the Christian Church. Two dementia workshops were provided sharing the I’m Still Here® concepts. Additional workshops were held at Central Christian Church in Dallas so that church members could learn to help each other.

When Fowler closed its gates to families, visitors, and volunteers in March due to COVID-19, the lessons learned through the I’m Still Here® training became even more impactful as quality of life was maintained. Additional training modules were delivered via Zoom instead of in person, and a new “Engage” program was launched which incorporated tablets for family communication and residents “traveled” to museums, arboretums, concerts, and zoos. Technology for the “Engage” program was funded in part by the grant from the National Benevolent Association.

When asked about an “unexpected outcome” of these funds, chief advancement officer Ann McKinley responded, “We started the I’m Still Here® journey for the benefit of our residents at Fowler. By sharing what we have learned with others in our community and in our churches, Fowler and the National Benevolent Association are impacting individuals well beyond the gates of Fowler.”

Juliette Fowler Communities serves elderly populations and their families in a variety of ways. Located in Dallas, Texas, this community offers independent and assisted living, health and rehabilitation services, memory support, foster care and adoption services. The organization serves more than 700 individuals and their families.

As the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Benevolent Association partners with congregations, regions, general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers to create communities of compassion and care. Founded in 1887 by six women responding to the needs of the day and on their doorsteps, for more than 130 years the NBA has continued to serve “the least of these.” Learn more at www.nbacares.org.