I became a Memory Care Unit Director shortly after finishing grad school when I was in my mid 20’s. I was probably selected because I was relatively kind and had some experience with people living with dementia. I didn’t feel like a leader and wasn’t sure what I could share with staff who, in most cases, had many more years of experience. I loved being with people who had dementia and finding ways to connect. I liked supporting family members as they adjusted to placing their person in a nursing home. I was in awe of the skill of staff who could make a resident feel safe during tough moments of daily care. I enjoyed considering what was needed to create a memory care unit but mainly in those early years as a Unit Director I felt inadequate and worried that I didn’t have the all the answers.
Over the years, my knowledge and confidence have thankfully grown but I still don’t have all the answers. I’ve learned as a leader, that’s alright. When it comes to working with people who have dementia, their families and the staff, none of us have all the answers.
What a good Dementia Leader has is a love for the work, a recognition of the gifts in others and the ability to create a team. I have grown the most as a leader by learning from people with dementia, listening to the stories of caregivers and finding mentors in the professionals around me.
I now work with staff from all areas of Dementia Care and see that a leader has little to do with a title and comes more from ones's spirit. Dementia Leaders are people who understand that no one has all the answers and that we create more when we work together. Leaders rise from all areas of dementia care - direct care staff, nurses, social workers, case managers, memory café staff, support group leaders, activity staff and chaplains, to name just a few.
That’s what we hope the Dementia Leadership Course and Network will be for you, a place to join a community of people wanting to develop in their skills and grow in their role. For over twenty years, the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and LeadingAge Illinois have offered this course but now it is getting a new look. By participating in the virtual Dementia Leadership Course, you will hear from leading experts in the field, many from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Rush University. You will also have access to the closed forum section where you will have resources and the ability to network with other leaders.
While I might be more comfortable to now call myself a Dementia Leader, I know that only comes from being with others. Hope you join our Network. Together we can continue to grow as Dementia Leaders.