While some nurses may find it difficult to work with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease, others find it to be a calling.

Take Christine E. Crouch, RN, BSN, for example. As a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator and the Vice President and Senior Administrator at Bethesda Health Group, specifically working with Charles Village and Southgate, she loves what she does. “It is extremely rewarding, hard work, and the families become part of your life,” says Crouch. “And they are so appreciative of the care you provide their loved one.”

In honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, Crouch took some time to answer our questions about what it’s like to work with Alzheimer’s patients. What follows is an edited version of the interaction.

As a nurse working with patients with Alzheimer’s disease, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?

As a nurse working with Alzheimer residents, my goal is to provide a safe environment while promoting self-worth and dignity for the resident. I want each resident to be able to do as much for him/herself as possible while having a meaningful life.

Why did you choose to work with this type of patient? How long have you worked in this particular area of the nursing field?

I have chosen the geriatric field of nursing because I love working with seniors and have cared for residents with Alzheimer’s disease since the 1970’s. I have always enjoyed talking and interacting with older people because they are so interesting and have had so many life experiences.

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

The different stages of Alzheimer’s disease affect residents in different manifestations of behaviors and daily life skills. So when you are caring for 27-30 Alzheimer residents on your neighborhood in different stages of the disease process, it is a huge challenge to meet every person’s needs (person-centered care) and wants.

What are the greatest rewards?

When someone who has not spoken, smiled, or engaged with staff or family all of a sudden talks, sings, or smiles.

What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work? What kind of training or background should he or she get?

This type of nursing is actually a calling. You have to want to care for this special group of individuals. Most of the time a nurse assistant or medication tech who worked with this population makes the best nurse.

They would definitely need geriatric nursing training and specialized skills and competency in dementia care. The Alzheimer’s Association offers some training, and also, there are other special programs like the Teepa Snow training and Landmarks for living program, just to mention a few.

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Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

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