They Thought My Dad With Dementia Couldn't Do Anything Anymore, Until We Discovered This

“I now have a much better understanding of my dad’s condition and his abilities.”
When you learn and teach CPI care techniques in your professional life, those techniques often resonate just as deeply in your personal life.
For Dominick Violante, his new dementia care training not only helps staff and patients at the hospital he works at. It also helps his dad, who lives in a dementia care facility, and the staff at his dad's facility.
Dominick is a Senior Level CPI Certified Instructor and a staff trainer at Hartford Hospital. He and his coworkers recently hosted a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® advanced training in Dementia and Related Cognitive Challenges. With the training, staff at Hartford Hospital now have more skills for working with individuals and families on the dementia journey, and Dominick is using what he learned in the class to improve care for his dad.
I interviewed Dominick about his work as a trainer and his life as a family caregiver. “I learned things I didn't know about my dad’s remaining abilities,” he said. “The biggest takeaways were discovering things the staff and I can do to make his life better.”
What does your work entail as a trainer in a large urban hospital?
I’m a Public Safety Training & Education Resource Officer, and work with many different departments within the organization. I provide safety tips and ideas, and I’m a CPI Instructor for staff.
What did you learn in your recent dementia care training?
One of the things I learned is how to recognize when staff at a dementia care facility are inadvertently promoting excess disability. The Allen Cognitive Levels and the system of determining what level a patient is at was extremely informative. That has helped me tremendously in understanding my dad’s capabilities.
What are you doing differently now when you visit your dad?
I brought my dad books to look at and read, and Legos to use to help stimulate his mind and brain activity. My dad used to be a mechanic by trade, so being able to use his hands and working with the Legos has given him something to look forward to each day. He also used to restore classic Mustangs 1965–1974, and after looking at one of the Mustang books, he was able to give me some facts about Ford Mustangs that only a true expert would know. One of the other books I brought to him was about movie actors from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He was able to recognize every actor in the book, and also remembered the names of several movies each actor did. 
How has this affected your dad?
He seems to be more alert, and more willing to get up each day and be active with his hands, and use the books.
How has this affected staff at your dad’s facility?
It has made them more aware of what he is capable of, as opposed to letting him lie in bed or sit in front of the TV all day. They can now give him options of activities to do. They make sure he looks at his books every day, as he is able to turn the pages by himself.
What do you want memory care staff to know about dementia?
I want staff to be educated with the same knowledge I learned. Using the Allen Cognitive skills, knowing how not to create excess disabilities, knowing activities to help stimulate a person’s thought process, using music to help patients.
What do you want memory care staff to know about family caregivers like you?
I want them to integrate family members into the care of the patient, and know that family members like me are educated, informed, and able to provide them with helpful information for caring for our loved ones.

(Grab our Life Story Questionnaire to help engage someone’s likes and abilities.)
What do you want families to know about dementia?
I want them to know that no matter how dire the situation may seem, if they spend some time asking the right questions, they may be surprised by what answers they find. Families should do research into dementia, or get some training to learn incredibly helpful facts that they can then pass on to their family member and other caregivers.
What do you want your dad to know about having dementia?
I want him to know that he can still be productive, creative, and able to still make some decisions on his own.
Anything else you’d like to share?
One of the most important and pleasantly surprising pieces of information I received after bringing the books to my dad was that I found out he could still read. That really blew me away, as I did not think he still had the cognitive skills to be able to not only read, but to also comprehend what he was reading.
If it wasn’t for the training and education I received, I probably never would have known to take books and Legos to my dad, and in turn, I never would’ve known he could still read, or that he still remembers so much about cars and movie actors. I plan on bringing additional books to him as well, and may even try building a puzzle with him.

Resources to help families and staff

Want to make a difference for someone too? Here are some links to help: CPI Instructors
If you’re a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructor, you can host an advanced course on dementia at your facility. For details, give us a call at 888.426.2184.

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