Certified Facilitator Spotlight: Mollie Heiden

Today we spotlight Mollie Heiden, TimeSlips Certified Facilitator and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, in the Advanced Dementia Unit. We asked Mollie some questions about how she’s been able to pivot with the demands of COVID-19, and find new ways to engage with the elders she works with.

What is your favorite part about your job?
I was inspired to work in the field by my grandmother, Lily May, who had early onset Alzheimer’s. At the time of her diagnosis, so little was known about dementia and the ways that creative approaches to care can drastically improve their quality of life. For this reason, I work to give the care and programming I wished my grandmother had had to my residents every day. I am lucky to have the chance to connect with so many people. Each resident has a story that is all their own, and I am blessed to get to be a small part of it.

A lot has changed in long-term care over the last year. What has been the biggest change for you in your role? 
My day-to-day role has not changed too much. I still get to be with my residents in person and provide programing, but the approaches have changed a lot. Pre-Covid, a lot of our programming was very mobile and active. We would go to lunches and events off the unit on our greater campus, outings to the larger community, special groups led by guest facilitators on unit and interactive groups with community partners. Once Covid hit all of that was immediately put on hold. this has had the greatest effect on our folks. To go from such an active lifestyle to being so secluded has been a challenge, and there are days that the “cabin fever” is very real.

How have you overcome challenges you have faced? 
Because of this challenge our teams biggest focus has shifted to a lot of anxiety management and connection. The attention we gave the environment on the floor became even more focused. How can we make this place feel like home? What stimuli is positive or negative for our folks? What is needed most to achieve the most comfort? The result has been a slower paced floor, a stronger focus on using technology, and an openness to learn new thing ourselves. Several of us have become novice hair and nail stylists, I am learning piano and autoharp to keep music alive on the floor, our Restorative Therapy exercise program has grown and been offered to more residents, and every resident has regular video calls with kids, siblings, and spouses, even ones that don’t live in state (or in country!). There are still days that are hard, but we have had some truly magical moments through it all as well.

How have you been able to utilize TimeSlips over the last year? 
TimeSlips has been a wonderful tool in providing engagement. We have followed the more traditional format and created stories throughout the year, sharing them in the hallway of the unit, but also with the greater campus on our community channel. It played a role in some simple redecorating we did on the unit in buying new artwork that would be more colorful an easy to see, with the hope to elicit stories and memories for our folks. It inspired me to pose Beautiful Questions to residents and their family members during video calls and watch some lovely conversations blossom. TimeSlips also provided connections to a teaching artist that was willing to take on the joint challenge of running art classes over Zoom. We learned a lot about how to connect with people, even with the limitation of a screen vs. being in person. And we saw some real success. TimeSlips has also provided me with some hope over the last year. Having gentle reminders to think outside the box when providing programming has been so important to keep me going.

What has been a success of yours this year?
The biggest success I have felt this year is how much the teamwork has grown on our unit. Everyone has stepped up to help in so many ways and kept a good attitude while doing it. Our communication feels direct, clear, and effective and it has meant a successful environment for our folks. It has been a hard year, but also a year with some really special moments. I will not soon forget it, but I am ready to look towards the future!