This past week, I had the opportunity to speak at the monthly All-Staff meeting in two different communities. An All-Staff meeting is what it sounds like: all staff is required to attend. There’s a training topic, employee of the month announcement, years of service awards, and other general information all staff needs to know.


The Best Looking Memory Care I’ve Ever Seen

Building A is undergoing renovation and the parking lot was partially closed. I had to park down the street and then wait to be let in the gate. It was raining. Building A is also a skilled nursing facility, SNF for short. A place no one ever wants to end up.

Building B is brand new. It’s absolutely gorgeous and offers multiple levels of care. The All-Staff was held in the theatre. Staff relaxed in stadium seating while my slideshow played on the largest screen I’ve ever seen outside an actual movie theatre. Parking was easy, and it was a beautiful sunny day.

But who cares about all that? Building B has the best looking memory care I’ve ever seen. I mean, EVER. It could be featured in the memory care version of Architectural Digest, if there was such a thing. This is the first community I’ve ever been in where it’s clear the designer actually spoke to people who live and work in the environment.

This is the standard all memory care should be built to. It is spectacular. It’s bright, wide open, tons of things to do, actually functional. It’s not a pretend Disneyland. I told the person touring me that I wanted to come back after the All-Staff, take pictures, and interview the staff so I could feature it in my blog today.

Then came the All-Staff.


My All-Staff Experience

I encourage you to always bring “The Good Stuff”–respect, kindness, love, empathy, compassion–into every interaction with your person. I make a conscious effort to show up that way for you, too, whether it’s via the blog, the podcast, in-person, on the phone, or however we’re interacting. I know you want me to show up as the best version of myself for you. You deserve that.

Part of my ongoing efforts to bring The Good Stuff includes continuous learning. I read voraciously, I listen to podcasts, I talk to people, I go to classes, I have a coach. Anyhow, I recently learned a new trick, Personality Poker. Personality traits are listed on the index cards, some positive, some negative. Each person gets 5 cards, then about 90 seconds to convince others to trade cards with them so they can get the hand they want. The point is to have 5 cards in your hand that describe you in the way you want the world to see you.

Do You Like Being Labeled?

The other point–my point, the reason I decided to add it to my talk–is, Do you like being labeled? Should you get to decide who you are, or should you be forced to be treated the way other people have labeled you? In essence, would you prefer to be called by your name, or “demented”? Someone who needs a little assistance, or “needy”? Someone who knows what she likes and wants, or “difficult”?

The words we use reflect our thinking. Words have weight. You already know how I want the world thinking about people living with dementia: 100% worthy of respect, kindness, love, empathy, and compassion. This exercise seemed like a good way to illustrate the point.

So I ran personality poker in both settings. The folks in Building B–the new, beautiful, spectacular building with a memory care set up that should be standard everywhere–embraced the negative characteristics. They announced they really are jerks and that’s just how it is. They were proudly defiant, determined to be “real.”


A Tale of Two Buildings

The folks in Building A–the SNF, a high level of care where no one ever wants to end up–quickly got the concept of the game. They were engaged and participated throughout the All-Staff. They were kind every step of the way, literally. The staffer who let me in the gate greeted me with a big smile, welcomed me, and asked how my day was going and what he could do to help me. He had no idea who I was or why I was there. That was just him being himself, bringing The Good Stuff.

Another staffer jumped right in to help me hook up my laptop to the tv. Yet another quickly found something I needed. Every single staffer I interacted with in Building A was bringing The Good Stuff. I say this especially because they showed zero hesitation in stopping whatever they were doing to assist a resident, including ignoring me mid-sentence to attend to a resident.

I never went back to the memory care neighborhood after I finished the All-Staff at Building B, of course. Imagine if brand-new, beautiful Building B was staffed by the amazing, full-of-The-Good-Stuff folks from Building A.

No matter how dazzling the construction, it’s never about the building. It’s always about the people in it.