Meet Carmen Johnson - Assisted Living and Memory Care Life Enrichment Coordinator

Meet Carmen Johnson – Assisted Living and Memory Care Life Enrichment Coordinator

Hi there – my name is Carmen Mason Johnson. I am currently the Life Enrichment Coordinator for Memory Care and Assisted Living at Wesley Woods at New Albany as well as the CARES Dementia Basics Trainer for our staff. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Major in Human Resources Management, a Master of Arts in Training and Development, and Graduate Certificates in Instructional Design, eLearning and Online Teaching.  Most importantly, I am a Certified Dementia Practitioner, certified in CARES Dementia Basics, and a licensed minister.

Prior to working for Wesley Woods at New Albany, I worked as a Memory Care Program Coordinator. However, years ago, I began my professional career at the accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Company, where I met my husband of 27 years. We relocated several times before making Ohio home. While living in Ohio, I became a caregiver for my parents and mother-in-law, who passed away from Alzheimer’s.  The time that I spent as a caregiver for my family was my first introduction to providing quality care for loved ones. As a caregiver, I was responsible for managing finances, insurances, daily meals, and medications. I transported my loved ones to and from doctor and hospital visits, and planned activities and outings. I did everything that I could to make their lives better and more comfortable. The time that I spent helping my family was the most meaningful I ever experienced while working in any field. Frankly, it ignited a passion within me, which aligned perfectly with my Christian faith. When my time as a caregiver ended, I sought opportunities to work with other seniors because I understood fully how important it was to show love and compassion to others who were no longer capable of taking care of themselves, as my loved ones were no longer able to do. Perhaps Matthew 25:40 best describes my thoughts: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

A month after I began my career as a Life Enrichment Coordinator for Wesley Woods at New Albany, I was asked if I would be interested in conducting CARES Dementia Basics Training classes for all employees. My answer, of course, was ABSOLUTELY! I was extremely honored and thrilled about the opportunity to provide weekly training classes to further education our employees. I was eager to share my passion for the subject matter, dementia care, and hopefully get others to completely embrace the role that they could play in making the lives of our residents, especially those who are living with some form of dementia, richer and fuller. The foundation of CARES Dementia Basics Training is learning what it truly means to provide person-centered care. The meaning of CARES, Connect with the person, Assess the behavior, Respond appropriately, Evaluate what works, and Share with others, is a useful reminder of what employees should demonstrate while caring for residents with dementia. The CARES approach provides tools to help employees understand residents with dementia and how to provide the best possible care so that they are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. An important takeaway from CARES Dementia Basics Training for many employees is the importance of building trusting relationships by learning about our residents and incorporating what we learn into the residents’ care instead of simply going through a checklist of tasks that they [employees] are convinced that they need to get done for the day. The CARES approach teaches us to see the whole person, despite dementia. Most importantly, it provides ways to connect with residents in a manner that will help them live their best lives today. What’s most exciting is that all employees at Wesley Woods at New Albany receives this fundamental and extremely valuable training because, simply put, Wesley Woods cares about its seniors. I am dedicated to the residents that I serve and do my best every day to provide enriching opportunities for them to learn, grow, and thrive. Being able to work in a senior living community is extremely rewarding. Amongst the many career choices I’ve made in the past, I cherish this one most. I can’t think of a better place to spend my time each day.