Laurie Gunter Mantz, OTR, CADDCT, is an occupational Therapist, Educator, and Advocate who has worked in the dementia specialty of assisted living for 15+ years. She is a certified Alzheimer’s Dementia Care Trainer for the last 7 years. She is Founder and CEO of Dementia Training for Life, Occupational Therapist and certified Dementia Care Practitioner, Instructor and Care Manager. By providing specialized training to healthcare providers, first responders, home care organizations and family members, individuals with dementia will lead more productive, rewarding, independent and individual centered lives.
Laurie is a member of the executive board for the revision of the Rhode Island State Plan for Alzheimer’s and related dementia’s and is certified by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners and is a member of the Leadership Council for The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care.
Laurie has developed a nonprofit organization called the Rhode Island Memory Cafes; she is doing it little bit differently by creating an organization that is helping to bring opportunity for socialization and engagement for people that are living with cognitive impairment.
Hanh Brown: [00:00:00] Well, Hey Lori, thank you so much for being here. Welcome.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:01:46] Absolutely, hon, thanks for having me.
Hanh Brown: [00:01:49] So yeah, please with us your journey into the senior living.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:01:52] Sure. So I’m an occupational therapist and I actually got involved kind of through the back door with senior living. I was looking for a job opportunity.[00:02:02] And head Hunter saw my resume and asked if I had ever considered working in assisted living. And back then, I really didn’t know what it was and what it was all about. So I started doing some research because of my background as a pediatric occupational therapist, what I knew about normal development and then knew about dementia. [00:02:22] It’s like, well, It’s just the absolute inverse and there’s the theory of retro Genesis. So I said, you know, let me look into this. So I did some research and I loved it. I’ve always enjoyed working with seniors also. So I started working in assisted living and it has become a passion of mine.
Hanh Brown: [00:02:39] So how long have you been serving the baby boomers
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:02:42] in senior living?[00:02:43] More than 15 years.
Hanh Brown: [00:02:45] So, over the past 15 years, what do you observe and what does senior living mean to you?
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:02:50] I think it’s in a nicer way of saying working with the elderly, because I’m now fallen into that category almost.
Hanh Brown: [00:02:56] Yes, we are all elderly in the making.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:02:59] Absolutely.
Hanh Brown: [00:03:00] Well, we have to be very mindful of how we are caring for the aging population.[00:03:05] The baby boomers, we are setting an example of how our children to take care of us.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:03:10] Correct. Now we start aging the day we’re born. So it’s just a linear progression. And I jokingly say, none of us are going to get off this earth alive. It is what it is. And my whole thought is to try and make it the most we possibly can.[00:03:26] And education is key to that. Yes.
Hanh Brown: [00:03:29] And that is while you’re here to increase awareness and training, to help others to be more effective caregivers. There are so many innovative ways to help with the aging process and there’s ongoing developments that it’s being improved upon. So learning how to help someone is essential in preserving that comfort, happiness and a peace of mind throughout all stages of life, especially as we grow older.[00:03:52] So thank you so much for being here.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:03:54] My pleasure.
Hanh Brown: [00:03:55] So what impact are you making in the senior living industry for the baby? Boom.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:03:59] Well, I launched my business full-time I was doing it part-time but I launched a business full-time dementia training for life, which centers in on training, improving the lives of people, living with dementia, by training the people that care for them.[00:04:12] So some people will say to me, who, who do you train? And my answer is everyone because we all have an impact on the people that we interact with. My primary focus is for people that work in healthcare and first responders. But I’ve also now developed a nonprofit organization called the Rhode Island memory cafes. [00:04:30] And it’s nothing new as far as memory cafes are concerned. But when I’m doing a little bit differently is creating an organization that is helping to bring opportunity for socialization and engagement for people that are living with cognitive impairment and their care partners. Because as you mentioned. [00:04:48] Caregiving is huge. And the impact of providing care as an elder is difficult. It’s extremely difficult. We think about how hard it is to be a caregiver of a newborn child or an infant, and how tired parents are. Well, imagine trying to do that when you’re 70 and 80 years of age, and I’m not saying that their loved one is a child, but they’re now providing care 24 seven for another human being. [00:05:13] And it has a major impact on their health and wellbeing. So we have to. Wings, if you will, of the organization, the training professionals, and then also providing the socialization and the memory cafes. And we just opened the 10th one here in Rhode Island yesterday.
Hanh Brown: [00:05:30] Well, congratulation on your efforts in growing a 10th cafe in Rhode Island.[00:05:35] Wow. And this is all volunteer. So who comes here? Spouses, caregivers, senior living staff.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:05:40]. It depends on the people that are attending. The number one goal is connection and fun. So they come in. Some of them, we have meals provided lunch. All of them. We have a snack and coffee and a time to just to meet other people.[00:05:58] And then we typically involve an activity and it can be anything from a lecture if that’s what they’ve requested to having music and entertainment, to arts and crafts, to trivia, to board games and to dance. So exercise is another big piece. So our hope is, is that. They will go home with a realization that they still have skills that they’ve had for a long time, or they’ve learned something brand new that they liked to do at home and find that it’s engaging as well as relaxing and helpful for their mindfulness and their health.
Hanh Brown: [00:06:34] So, what are the typical groups that go here? Would that be senior living community staff that would take a group of their residents to come to the cafe?
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:06:43] We do have that, but mainly the emphasis. I mean, I love it when that happens, but our main emphasis is for people that are still living at home.
Hanh Brown: [00:06:50] Spouses children would take their loved ones with dementia to come to the cafe, to engage in various activities and get social with other dementia, loved ones.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:07:00] children and spouses.[00:07:01] So we’ve got a combination of spouses that come. We have adult children that bring their parents. We have caregivers that have been hired by loved ones to socially interact with their loved ones and they bring them. And we actually have a couple of people that are really high functioning that come on their own.
Hanh Brown: [00:07:18] So it’s not a daycare instead is a social group, social cafe. It is a place where you come to engage, be social and eat and dance with your family members.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:07:27] I’m glad you brought up the daycare piece because no, it is not an adult day program. It is a socialization group. And it’s not really a support group either where you come and talk about all the problems that you’re having and how are we going to solve them.[00:07:41] It truly is all about coming and being engaged. So one instance, we had a group at one of the senior centers where we decided we were going to do some painting. So after an initial coffee and Danish and, and just saying hello and meeting new people, we sat down and we’re going to paint. And the woman that was there that had the most involved cognitive impairment said to me, I’ve never done this. [00:08:07] I don’t know how to start. So I went over and we started talking and I said, well, let’s pick something just to start with. I said, how about a flower? And she said, okay. So what I did was I just sketched out just the STEM and the leaves and the grass and. Then she filled it in with a painting. Well, by the time we were done with the activity, she had completed two paintings where everybody else had worked on one and she was so excited. [00:08:33] She’s holding up her pictures and saying my pictures better than your pictures. And apparently she’s now painting on a regular basis at home. So this is a new leisure activity that she can engage in. That really doesn’t take a lot of support from her care partners and loved ones. And she’s getting a positive reinforcement and working on her self esteem and feeling like there’s a purpose. [00:08:57] So it’s not like she’s lost everything.
Hanh Brown: [00:09:01] It’s a social group for engagement, for your loved ones to explore their gifts is to uncover any talents so that they can learn, grow and thrive. So when you are learning something new, it’s important to have a sense of progress, a sense of accomplishment along the way.[00:09:17] So this is exactly what this environment offers.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:09:20] Absolutely. And one of the stigmas that goes along with cognitive impairment is that at diagnosis life ends and that’s so not true. We have to recognize yes, there is an acquired disability that comes with all the different diseases that can cause dementia, but we can accommodate those disabilities that come along with it and make it to that.[00:09:41] We have abilities by adapting our environment, adapting our interaction with our loved ones, changing our expectations and giving them tools that makes it easier for them to perform independently and still feel whole again.
Hanh Brown: [00:09:54] Absolutely. So instead of focusing on the loss, you now offer them opportunities to discover themselves with new skills, new hobbies.[00:10:03] So the focus is on deriving, embracing in new abilities and not disabilities. [00:10:09] Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:10:09] Exactly. May I share another story because this one just absolutely. So we were again at a senior center where we hold one of our cafes and we were doing music trivia. Of course we were using music that was appropriate for audience. [00:10:26] So we were doing fifties and sixties music and there was a gentleman there that his cognitive impairment had a significant impact on his speech. So. He was enjoying the activity, but wasn’t really able to chime in all that often. And one of the things that I do is when we had an answer to a question, I would YouTube that song and bring it up and everybody would start talking about their memories that would go along with that song, because we know that music is deeply, deeply rooted in the brain. [00:10:55] And one of the last things to go when it comes to our memories. So I turned to him and I asked him what his favorite song was. His was Unchained melody. So I brought it up on my Bluetooth speaker and I turned to him and asked. What’d you dance with me? And he looked at me, said, I can’t. I said, sure, you can you walk in here? [00:11:15] You can dance. Well, he stood up. He danced with me. He sang the entire song in my ear as his wife watched on with tears on her inner eyes. Oh, what a gift? And I said, now go home and play the music. That’s important to you. And the both of you dance is fun.
Hanh Brown: [00:11:34] So you were able to pull out what he was able to relate to that perhaps he and his wife did not know.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:11:40] Exactly.
Hanh Brown: [00:11:41] through that song.[00:11:42] You’re able to pull something out inside of his mind and his body that he can relay to and got him to dance and sing.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:11:49] That’s the occupational therapist in me.
Hanh Brown: [00:11:51] It’s more than a song. It means so much that what the song signifies, something that the couple can reconnect.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:11:58] Yeah. And this is a gentleman that was having problem with language and he sang the entire song to me.[00:12:05] You know, he realized at that moment that he could still do this and he just beamed afterwards. That is awesome.
Hanh Brown: [00:12:13] So those kind of experiences, that’s what drives you and that’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. So where are you located and how do you get the word out?
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:12:21] So memory cafes actually started over in the Netherlands back in the nineties.[00:12:26] This is not a new idea. This is something that’s been around for a while. It took a while before it got here to the U S but I’m in Rhode Island and the memory cafes themselves, and specifically centering in on Rhode Island. We didn’t have any until 2018 when we opened the first one. So I partnered with an assisted living organization and we opened the first one here in Providence. [00:12:48] And word got out and people have just been wanting them left and right. So in a year and a half, we’ve opened 10 different centers. They are usually held in senior centers or in churches or temples. But the one that we opened yesterday, we opened in the museum of working culture up in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which is a museum that centers in on the culture of that community. [00:13:12] It was a mill district and had deep, deep roots in the. French Canadian population. Well, I love it because we’re bringing people from the community into a center that again is sparking their memories and bringing up conversations and allowing them to use the skills that they have. So we had a wonderful session yesterday with music therapists that were there. [00:13:37] So we’re singing songs and rekindling friendships. And. We’ve had people that we’ve reunited that went to high school together, and haven’t seen each other since the sixties. We’ve reunited people that went to college together. We even had one memory cafe where we had four couples there and all four couples have been married more than 60 years. [00:13:56] So we had more than 240 years of marriage.
Hanh Brown: [00:13:59] Wow. My goodness. What a celebration
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:14:02] it was, and they didn’t want to do the activity I had planned. They just wanted to connect with each other and talk and socialize and reminisce.
Hanh Brown: [00:14:10] So when your guests come through, what is a typical profile the age? Are they in their mid eighties?[00:14:17] Are they in the earlier stage of dementia?
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:14:19] Well, we’ve had people that have arrived in wheelchairs and we’ve had people that have walked in that couldn’t tell right from the get go that they had a new diagnosis. So we’ve had people as young as in their fifties come to the cafes. But I would say that our average is probably 80.[00:14:36] We’d had people into their nineties that have come. So it’s definitely wide span. And we’ve got people that have heard about this and have just come to volunteer and to participate because they just want to give back. It’s open to the public. It’s free. We’re in the process. I’m just waiting for the IRS stamp to become a nonprofit so that we’ll be able to go for grants to continue to expand this. [00:14:58] But. Biggest piece is getting the word out and changing the stigma so that we can get people to stop isolating and engage in the community. But that’s all part of what is going on. As far as making our dementia, our communities dementia friendly also. So there’s a big push in that. And Rhode Island is really working hard on that. [00:15:18] We may be a little tiny state, but we have a great deal of research that’s happening here, you know, national and international research that happens here as well as some centers for excellence and really working hard at trying to make our communities more people friendly, not just dementia friendly,
Hanh Brown: [00:15:35] absolutely families come spouses, grandchildren.[00:15:39] It’s a social gathering for the entire family.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:15:42] Yep.
Hanh Brown: [00:15:43] all volunteer or how do you pay the workers.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:15:45] Okay. So right now, what I’ve done is I’ve partnered with other community-based companies and assisted livings and senior centers and churches. So the locations are free. They donate the space available to us.[00:16:00] And particularly in the senior centers, it’s seen as a activity that they can offer to their members. And then the companies that have joined me as co-sponsors, they help by providing the snacks and also some of their activity, people and exercise people and their staff come in. What we’re doing is also letting people know about the resources that are out there. [00:16:24] So we’re not soliciting services, but we let them know that we have this. Box full of resources for home care companies and aides that can come in and help and connections to hospice and, and clinical trials and all of the resources that are out in the community. So we become a resource center as well.
[00:17:06] But right now it’s all volunteer.
[00:16:45] So right now it’s all voluntary based. Once we get to the grant. Process, we’ll be looking at creating a dedicated website and PSA’s and handouts and literature that will get out to the communities, to the physicians so that they can refer people to us. And then we’ll have fundraising opportunities that will help fund it financiall.
Hanh Brown: [00:17:08] Wow Imagine that. Now you have 10. Bless you. Well, that is beautiful. It is wonderful. It was an idea that came from the Netherlands, but you took it and you grew it into 10 social care phase and helping hundreds of people with dementia in your community.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:17:23] Yes we are. And then the best part of that.[00:17:26] Is then family is recognizing the need for early and accurate diagnosis and a strong interprofessional care team. So that leads back to the other wing of dementia training for life, which is centered in, on educating the healthcare professionals. Because unfortunately our CNAs, our nurses, our doctors, they don’t have the information about.
[00:17:52] The various different diseases. And I’m coming from a family side because both my grandmothers and then my dad was dealing with a cognitive impairment. We never actually even got a diagnosis for my father with what I know I have my suspicions, but we’ve had a horrible experience with physicians. And I hear this from family members all the time that their doctors and their nurses don’t know what it is that they’re dealing with. [00:18:17] When a doctor says to you, well, let’s throw this medicine at it and see if it sticks. We’ve got to get a differential diagnosis. We’ve got to know what we’re dealing with because some medications for some diseases like Lewy body disease in front of temporal dementia can actually be lethal. If we don’t know what we’re dealing with, we could cause major problems. [00:18:35] So that’s the professional in me trying to make sure that other professionals have the knowledge and the skillsets in order to really advocate for their patients.
Hanh Brown: [00:18:47] So going to help. Do you need, how can the listeners.
Laurie Gunter Mantz: [00:18:50] participate? Well, I offer educational trainings for nursing homes, assisted living, so they can go into hospitals and help with creating dementia, friendly systems in the hospitals.[00:19:02] The worst place in the world for somebody with a cognitive impairment or dementia is a hospital because they can’t advocate for themselves because they’re scared and unfamiliar with the environment. I have an event coming up in March with the crews. And CEOs. So if somebody wants to take the trainings that I offer, which are certified through the national council of certified dementia practitioners, you can receive after completing the course, you can apply to become a certified dementia practitioner, which is a great professional recognition of your continuing education. [00:19:34] And you can join me in the Eastern Caribbean as we sail around the islands in the Eastern Caribbean and take the course and then see how people with dementia on the cruise ship. Are living life to their fullest. So this is a dementia friendly cruise and family members and their loved ones come on. [00:19:52] There are nurses and pharmacists and CNAs that are there to help provide support. And we see these people come alive again when they get to enjoy life. And so I would love for people to reach out and I can travel to provide the trainings I’m available at any time. So anything I can do to help in order to spread the word that we can improve the lives of all people living with dementia well into later stage.
[00:20:19] And yes, people with dementia can learn.
Hanh Brown: [00:20:22] Thank you so much, Laurie, for providing an environment for loved ones with dementia, where they can come and socialize your cafes, give a positive reinforcement while working with them and their self esteem and giving them a feeling that they have a purpose. Well, thank you.