In our upcoming Senior Living LIVE! webinar, we're talking with Rachelle Blough, a Certified Recreational Therapist and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care trainer with 25 years of experience. Working in senior living in national roles in memory care and life enrichment, Rachel wants to share her experience to enrich the lives of seniors and their families and caregivers. She will be teaching us practical and realistic ways you can make meaningful connections with your loved one that will bring each of you joy.

Click the video to watch the preview now, and don't forget to register for the full webinar by visiting


Video Transcript 

- Hello everyone, and welcome into Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. We thank you for tuning in. And for those of you listening to us via podcast, we thank you for taking the time to find us as well. Now, today, we want to introduce you to a very special guest. We have Rachelle Blough with us. She is our guest speaker for our upcoming webinar, August 11th, called "Creating Meaningful Moments That Matter". Rachelle, how are you today?

- Doing great, thank you for having me.

- Yeah, thank you for not only being here today, but for willing to help us understand ways that we can help our loved ones who might have dementia, who might have Alzheimer's, and ways that we can do exactly as the title says, create meaningful moments that matter. Now you certainly have a unique perspective on this topic. You are a certified recreational therapist, a certified Alzheimer's disease and dementia care trainer with 25 years of experience. And I gotta imagine over the 25 years you've been a part of this, you've seen a lot of changes and a lot more attention to dementia, to Alzheimer's. So take us through your journey, helping seniors and where your focus is now.

- Got it. Well, it's, you know, when you find something that you get to be paid and also find your passion, it is really like a perfect match. And so 25 years ago, right out of college, I was, you know, leading the programs and recreation in, would have been, you know, like in a skilled nursing home. And one day I had one of the ladies who was living with Alzheimer's. She looked at me and said, "Teacher, can I be excused from class?" And just something about that really hit me in my heart. Because, you know, they've lived this proud and long successful life. And then for her to think she was stuck at school. That led me down the journey of this new social model of approach to dementia care, which really was exciting to find. And moved me into operations when I would oversee, you know, all dementia care, memory care, assisted livings in different capacities around North America for the last 25 years. And I've been really grateful to meet amazing people who are as excited and passionate as I am to try to figure out ways to help people. You can just see it in their eyes and in their face when they're feeling frightened or scared or anxious. And there are resources and trainings and ways to equip families and staff, you know, to help relieve that feeling. So most recently, I've done national positions, helping senior living companies as they, you know, really figure out how they want to approach the care model. And there's some basics we all do. And then I know many organizations have a little flavor twist on maybe some special signatures they do, and I help do some program development and things like that. And then most recently, I do teaching and consulting. So I am a vice-president of corporate training with the National Council for Dementia Practitioners part-time. And I just help various operators and family caregivers and doing some teaching and consulting as well.

- Well, you are absolutely the right person for this, no question. We recently had a panel with a couple of individuals who are living with dementia. And many of them have been living with it for four or five, six years. And I think the takeaway from some of the doctors that were watching, the nurses that were watching were, my goodness. You know, it seems like this could be my friend. I could be having tea with this individual. I could be having dinner or having a laugh with this person. It's not something that you get diagnosed with and immediately just you completely change. That's just not how this works. And I think that there were so many added layers and people are just trying to find anything they can to help understand what that loved one is going through. And so what you do is such important work. And I thank you for that. Now, when we talk about that phrase, creating deep connections, that is something you hear a lot, especially with our Arbor staff, for sure. It's something we strive for every single day. How can someone watching begin that process with a loved one right now?

- You know, there are so many just little -isms and takeaways over the years of being on the floor or working directly with people living with this disease. And learning from families and continuing to add to our tool belt. And in the most recent things that really resonate with me and I tried to stick with and I think it's a good nugget for people to walk away is to think about emotional memory is something to really think about tapping into. And so if you know, I am not a clinician, I, you know, try and play one on TV. But being a recreational therapist and you know, many times we would work very closely with a nurse or a clinician, the amygdala at the base of the brain or the limbic system, that says to me immediately, "This beautiful lady, Melissa, makes me feel warm, "makes me feel like she gets me. "I feel like I'm not quite sure what her name is, "but she makes me feel like I can trust her." That is something that I believe we now know stays intact. So while someone may not be able to be oriented to time and place, and maybe some confusion, they in general, and this is, you know, not always, but they will remember something that was extremely positive and unfortunately, things that were not positive. So tapping into favorite memories that they, you can just see the face light up when they can tell you about them. And I also found very helpful something that was shared with me over the years is the very first things in are the last things out. So if we can practically think about someone who between the ages of maybe zero, you know, from birth to eight or nine years old, those memories, those times in their life, their favorite things, maybe favorite comfort foods. Those are things that will remain the longest, even as someone progresses in dementia.

- Wow, those are great tips. And you know, I've been doing this awhile. I don't think I've heard that. So that even for me, that's excellent news. So I know that if... This is why we do these previews. It's so somebody can say, "Wow, that's news to me. "Where do I sign up? "I have to talk to this woman." And we'll talk more about that towards the end of our discussion here today. But, you know, we have had webinars in the past where we've had people who have dementia. We've also had a webinars in the past where we talked about the stages of caregiving for somebody with dementia and caregiver burnout. It is a thing. Now, if somebody is in that stage right now, Rachelle, what steps can they take to identify new ways to focus on growth and joy for themselves and of course, for their loved one?

- Well, when I began my career in my twenties, I just couldn't believe I got to be paid to bring joy and meaning to people. And then as I get into my late forties and many of my peers, I think we're referred to as the sandwich generation apparently. And now my loved one, my mom, does not have a Alzheimer's type dementia, but she resides in a community. And I'm very grateful for the team who fills in when I can't. But I know everyone who may join us, if it's a family member or a caregiver, they may not have those resources. But I really personally went through a journey. I feel like quality over quantity. And really I was trying so hard to be this dutiful daughter and, you know, go after an 11 hour workday. And just check it off my list because I felt with my own values and working in the field and my faith, I had to say, I saw my mom. But I went in, she could sense the 11-hour tired, frazzled, forgot to eat, trying to just get in there to say I did it to get home to feed the kids. And so I did some reflection. And I did join some various support group mechanisms. I personally like sometimes book clubs more than a support group. Because I feel personally when I open Pandora's box of emotions, I have to be able to do something with them. So I really like a good book club where we are walking away with something tangible. The other thing I feel like is a hidden little gem, and I think we all kind of know it's there, but we're just kind of in moment of being overwhelmed is to remind people about the Alzheimer's Association's 24 hour, seven day a week helpline. And I tried to look at working there at one point, and I know that their qualifications, you needed to have a social work background, nursing with extensive experience in this field. And someone will pick up that phone 24 hours, seven days a week. So I do, is it okay if I provide that phone number just to remind people?

- Absolutely, yes.

- So, I mean day or night, you're just thinking, "Oh my gosh, I just don't know what to do. "She's trying to walk out the front door. "And I've tried everything these books told me, "and she's not turning around." Take the cell phone and walk with her and call this number. The phone number is 1-800-272-3900. And I believe they have care navigation resources they can help people sift through in those really critical times.

- Yeah, and you may have already answered this question, but in your experiences over the years, and in even your experience with your own mother, what have been your biggest takeaways or the one takeaway in your time working with individuals who have dementia that perhaps caregivers aren't aware of but should be?

- This is, I mean, it feels so basic that it's gonna, I hope it doesn't come across as patronizing, but it's been a real epiphany. And even, Melissa, what they know now about our own wellness, going all the way to the root of our ability to function as our best optimized wellness: sleep, sleep. And people who are caregivers for people with dementia or even healthcare professionals with what they've went through with the pandemic, we are all struggling. And they now know that sleep deprivation has a large correlation to risk for our own health late in life, right? And so it's been a personal journey. I've a lot of things I'm personally trying to work on, but there is a lot of evidence about lavender, affirmations. Again, some of this feels a little hokey, but are supporting evidence and research studies. Blue light therapy. I don't know if you've heard of that. I personally had a happy light for winter. These are things that, for the caregiver and the person with dementia, right? When we are stabilized and have as much of our faculties to be refreshed as possible, when those anxieties and fixations and struggles that can come, we will be the most prepared. So I personally, that's been something to me that I think gets missed and can really change the way you cope during the day.

- Yeah, how you care for yourself really is reflected in how you're able to care for others, right? And boy, that is something that is, it seems so simple, but you do have to take those steps and take that time for yourself. So I really appreciate you telling me that and telling our viewers that, because I think it's important to hear. And, you know, it's also important when they hear that from you to hear that it's okay. It is okay to take time for yourself. So yeah, this is going to be a great webinar. I can already feel it. And so if someone is watching this preview and they said, "You know what, I don't want to wait until the webinar. "I want to contact this woman now. "She's got some great ideas. "I really need help, I'm drowning here." How can they get in touch with you?

- Well, it would be my pleasure. Some people kind of, you know, I'm a pack rat, but in a good way. That over these 25 years, you know, keeping resources, books, different resources that might be a hidden gem. I have a website as well as my email address. And it just would be my pleasure to be available to help someone try to get them on the right path if I can. So it is my full name. It's a long one, but or is the website. So I don't know, Melissa, if they will see the correct spelling or would you like me to provide that?

- Actually they will see it when they click on this video. Your name will be

- Perfect.

- Attached to it, so they'll be able to find it pretty easily.

- Wonderful, lots of letters.

- Yes, so we do thank you, of course, for taking the time to share your knowledge. I know this is going to be a webinar that many people who are in the position, maybe they have a spouse or maybe they were recently diagnosed with dementia, or a daughter or son. A lot of people can get something out of this and are really looking forward to it. We as always appreciate your knowledge. And we look forward to seeing you August 11th at noon Eastern.

- Thank you, I look forward to it.

- Thank you, and of course, for our viewers, we want you to be a part of the conversation. You can head on over to to register for this webinar, "Creating Meaningful Moments That Matter" with Rachelle Blough. Rachelle will be available to answer your questions during this webinar. So you want to be there to do that. And while you're at, feel free to check out the rest of our video content, all about senior living. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As always, we appreciate you watching and listening via podcast. Have a great day everybody.


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