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Northbrook-based Open Arms Solutions has launched a new memory care program

Julie Kollada headshot

Julie Kollada knows firsthand the difficulty of finding out someone you love has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“You don’t know what you’re supposed to do to keep your loved one safe and comfortable,” she said, recalling how she felt in 2006 when her late mom, Jeanne Paskind was diagnosed. “You have to make all sorts of decisions quickly and figure out what’s best. It’s confusing and scary.”

Kollada’s frustrating experience in finding a good solution for Paskind’s care was the driving force behind starting her Northbrook-based home care provider, Open Arms Solutions, 900 Skokie Blvd., which last month launched Open Arms Embrace, the company’s new memory care program.

“This is a person-centered program that provides a multi-disciplinary approach for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients,” said Kollada, who in six years has grown Open Arms Solutions to 150 employees. “It first assesses their cognitive and functional levels, and then based on that gives our caregivers strategies to lay out a meaningful and personalized program for that individual.”

Open Arms Embrace is modeled after Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer, a program developed by Dr. Verna Carson, a Maryland-based clinical nurse who specializes in psychiatric mental health nursing and has written or co-written 22 books in her field.

Carson visited Northbrook last month and presented three public training workshops for health professionals, as well as multiple training sessions to educate the entire Open Arms staff on implementing the new program.

“I’m impressed that they’re taking this on,” said Carson, who is president of C & V Services, the company she runs with her business partner, Katherine Vanderhorst, to train health care providers all over the country on her own program. “This will put them head and shoulders above other private providers, because their staff has learned specific techniques to manage challenging behaviors of those with dementia.”

Carson said Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer starts with recognizing what is called retrogenesis in patients: how the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s deteriorates in the reverse order in which the brain developed from birth.

The program focuses on teaching health professionals how to personalize caregiving in relation to retrogenesis, offering the best ways to handle agitation, aggression, wandering, resistance to care, persistent sadness, bathing issues, and fall prevention, she said.

“A person may no longer be functioning at their real age, but rather at the level of a 4-year-old, so that says to me, ‘How would I bathe a 4-year-old?’ or ‘How would a 4-year-old express pain?’” said Carson. “Without talking down to them, we are keeping in mind that age behavior.

“When caregivers think this way, patients are more likely to experience less aggressive behavior, because they are more calm, more at ease and happier, and the family becomes more comfortable and less burdened.”

By Jackie Pilossoph Pioneer Press
July 20, 2015

Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press. Reprinted with permission.

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