Teaching and Learning, Listening and Living—All Can Serve as Inspiration

Teaching and Learning, Listening and Living—All Can Serve as Inspiration


You may be giving someone else inspiration without realizing it—and that’s an inspiring thought to keep in mind.

For instance, Jennifer Lester, CDAL, executive director at Sage Spring Assisted Living and Memory Care, says she gets indirect inspiration from the families and loved ones of residents. Families can be confused and dismayed because they don’t understand enough about how cognitive decline happens, or how it may affect behavior. The hope of helping them understand what’s happening and what’s next keeps her focused and moving forward on gaining education and experience.

Over the course of the pandemic, with that motivation in mind, Lester led the opening of a new community, at the same time earning her Certified Director of Assisted Living (CDAL) and working toward other milestones, including certified Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care trainer.

She was hired at the beginning of March 2020, when the community was still under construction. As the COVID threat gathered, she says “I thought, They’re going to furlough me. There’s no way they can keep going with this construction.”

But they did. The community opened just before Thanksgiving of 2020, in the middle of restrictions, and in about 10 months had reached 70 percent occupancy.

Here, we talked about ways to keep herself, her team, and residents motivated and enjoying life.

Change of scene
About every other month, she has been taking the whole management team out of the building, to do something different for about an hour. Often, it’s as simple as having breakfast together.

“We talk about whatever we want—what’s going on with us personally, instead of work, work, work. It’s kept us kind of intertwined with each other. It’s strengthened our team, because we all know something about what’s personally going on with each other.”

Teaching and presenting
Lester is also working toward certification as an Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care trainer. Being able to teach and lead presentations and trainings also energizes her. People in her community and outside it often reach out when they need a speaker.

“I have no problem doing public speaking, as long as I know what I’m talking about,” she laughs.

Inspiring each other
“It’s not just about the residents inspiring us. We can inspire them too,” Lester says. “Residents love to hear about their caregivers, and their personal situations and their kiddos.”

“One thing I have practiced from the beginning is kindness with everyone. Obviously, staff is included, and they know that’s an expectation. But the residents themselves can sometimes get caught up in their own frustration.”
Recently, a resident told her that she felt a person wasn’t listening to her. Lester asked: “Have you tried just observing?”

“I used to think I had to talk a lot for people to hear me,” Lester says. “But what I started noticing is that whenever I started talking less and listening more, the small things I did say made more of an impact.”

The resident came back later to share her experience. “She calls me her ‘mother hen,’” Lester says. “She said, ‘You know what, little mother hen, you were right. I realize that I have to practice observing more.”

‘Living the Dream’
Finally, a community program, Living the Dream, helps residents fulfill their bucket lists. Recently, an ex-pilot requested a skydiving adventure. “Being able to offer residents that ability to do what they want to do is pretty inspiring, too.”