Designing patient-centric dementia care: An expert care-giver’s perspective
Estève Giraud, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor,
ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems
Prescott Valley Assisted Living
“I had a patient who used to tell me ‘Aging is not for sissies,’” Tammie Easterly recalls. “We used to laugh so much,” says the manager of Prescott Valley Assisted Living. “But I understand what he meant. Aging can be hard for people, especially when dementia starts developing and people alternate between lucid moments and dementia episodes.”
As a residential assisted living manager, Easterly oversees the care of 10 senior residents in tandem with a team of six other service staff. She is the point of contact for the families of these seniors, and for the overall team of medical providers. It is her job to make sure that her team is professionally trained to provide the best-possible patient care and service – that medications are administered adequately, wounds are tended effectively, and that clients are always safe. Likewise, Easterly ensures that the families of Prescott Valley Assisted Living are updated to any changes to their loved one’s condition, and to work closely with the medical-care teams to provide real-time assessments of residents. Easterly’s responsibilities require empathy, endurance, quick thinking, self-control and a thorough understanding of policies, procedures and medications.
But before being a manager, she is first and foremost a care-giver, with more than 20 years’ experience. She first started by taking care of her grandmother in her early teenage years. Then, she became a wait staff in an assisted living in Scottsdale, before becoming a certified caregiver when she turned 18. Over the years, she has learned to know seniors and how to understand them. She has learned how to care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, people who suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TIBs), tetraplegics, quadriplegics, people with feeding tubes, tracheotomies, catheters, wounds, and more. She has learned what medications can do for her patients, but she has also learned their limits. Through time and careful observation, Easterly has learned the essential difference between treating symptoms and caring for a person.
 Here and in the title, we use the spelling “care-giver” to highlight the ensemble of practices in giving care. Later in the text, we write “caregiver”, in reference to those who provide care in assisted living communities and care homes.