All posts by Julie Boggess

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute and provides education and training to private and professional caregivers through her company Enlighten Eldercare. She lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs of Mount Prospect, IL.

COVID Recovery: Rebuilding Human Connections

We can restore human connection and relationships post-COVID by understanding the importance of re-awakening the senses through the simple act of touch.

For nine months, we’ve been under COVID-19’s siege.  People residing in care communities are still confined to their rooms, cared for by overwhelmed team members shielded in protective gear and with no outside visitors.

Most certainly, this is devastating blow to any sense of well-being. Now we’re looking ahead to what changes 2021 may have in store. We may finally see a glimmer of hope as we anticipate our collective recovery from COVID.

Before looking forward, let’s glance at the toll on those the precautions keep safe. We’ve all seen first-hand or heard reports of social isolation and loneliness.

As humans, we all have a deep-rooted need for connection with others. We connect through voice, facial expression, body language, touch. Cut off from this bond, anxiety, depression, futility, decreased function, falls, and worsening dementia may set in. Some frail elders stop eating and wither, losing their desire to live.

Of course, every person is unique. Some are naturally resilient and able to better roll with the changes and find meaning in reading, music, and computer or phone calls.

However,   others don’t have the reserves to carry them through, as we see in elders with advanced dementia or other conditions, placing them more at risk for decline.

Our hats are off to all of you working so hard to try to create a connection. Arranging window or porch visits with families, distanced communal activities, video chats, and more.

Our Way Forward

Although we haven’t turned the corner yet to see the end of COVID, now is the time for conversations about how to open the doors again and rebuild lost human connections.

Going straight from “lockdown” to the “old way” probably isn’t an option. Creativity and flexibility is needed well into 2021.

Perhaps the basics is a good starting point. The senses offer a way to reach through the fog of prolonged isolation.

Compassionate Touch is a universal language of the heart that will help fill the void for elders, families, and the care team alike. Even now, a caring touch on the shoulder or a few kind words will help.

Physical closeness without the barrier of a window will make for better hearing and verbal understanding. And one day ahead, when protective equipment isn’t standard garb, facial expressions will be seen again.

Some states created an “essential caregiver” designation for family members, allowing them to help with care and provide companionship for loved ones.  This is a good step forward.

Regardless of how things unfold in your community, let’s keep the conversation going about how we will navigate the next phase—collective recovery.

These two links have powerful videos about the impact of isolation on elders, families, and care staff.

This Article was written by Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT, founder of Compassionate Touch, a program offered by AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

COVID Recovery: Developing the Next Generation Aging Services Workforce

COVID recovery: Building the next generation of aging services professionals.

Eight months after the start of the pandemic,  Aging Services providers can barely hang on to enough staff to care for their residents.  Emphatically, The Washington Post exclaims that nursing home workers now have the most dangerous jobs in America, and they deserve better.

Pre-COVID, workforce development, and recruitment in Aging Services was a crisis.  Indeed, if there is a level above crisis, we are now there.  Therefore, it is time to plan for COVID recovery and reinvent practically everything about the aging services industry.

An article in The Journal of the American Medical Director’s Association states, “We, as a global society failed our nursing home community, residents, relatives, and staff.”  The article further states that that future recruitment of staff will be an even greater challenge.

With a vaccine glimmer of hope in site,  we need  to construct the next generation of the aging services workforce.

Cultivate a Vital Workforce

AGE-u-cate Training Institute delved into research about best practices to recruit and retain employees.  We are pleased to present the result of our work in this white paper, “REVEAL Aging.

Solutions are needed to elevate the vocation of the aging services workforce.  To that end, we conclude that it starts with a redesign of the education and training curriculum.  Specifically, content redesign and training delivery methods need to reflect the realities of the aging services worker.

The next generation of workers need essential knowledge and skills to care for all elders effectively.  In addition, a clear and achievable career path should be in view, for this will be a recruitment remedy.

In conclusion, it is time to put Humpty Dumpty back together.  But, one could ask if he ever was.  For this reason,  it is time for a new vision for the aging services workforce.


Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990.  She is the Director of Grants and Consulting Projects and a Certified Master Trainer with AGE-u-cate Training Institute,  and a Certified Dementia Practitioner.  In addition, she is an instructor in Aging Services and Leadership at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team. Phil Jackson

AGE-u-cate Training Institute is a team that works together to create real change in elder care. Each person is integral to the mission of the organization with their unique knowledge and talents.   We recently asked our team a simple question – Why ATI 

Ann Catlin, Training & Education Consultant/ creator of Compassionate Touch®– Six years ago, Pam and I convened in Tulsa to explore how we might work together.  We shared a desire to uplift elders in assisted environments by elevating care-providers’ skills—and Pam had a vision of how to make that happen. I’m proud that the program I developed, Compassionate Touch®, now lives with AGE-u-cate, and I’m delighted to be a part of an enormously talented team, as together we create positive change.

Heidi Benard, Client Success Advisor – Passion is just one of the many reasons I joined this team!  When I came across Age-u-cate over 2 years ago, something inside of me knew I needed to learn more.  Being an educator myself, and having firsthand experience with both in-laws with dementia, I felt like I had been directed to “the right place”.  Now, I am honored and privileged to be a “smiling teammate” of this amazing and talented group.    Passion drives…empathy connects…and Age-u-cate delivers amazing programs.

John Brandon, Information Technology & Video Production – I love working for AGE-u-cate because it gives me the ability to be truly creative and responsive to the needs of others within the company.

Julie Boggess, Director of CMP and Consulting Projects – Through a string of unplanned and unexpected encounters, I was introduced to AGE-u-cate Training Institute.  I learned about their educational programs, met the people, and the deal was sealed for me.  Working for a company where I can apply my 30 years of Aging Services experience means everything.  We are all encouraged to be creative, share ideas and work together to build educational programs that get at the heart of caring for older adults.  Working for ATI fulfills my longing to be a part of transforming how we care for older adults, and that begins with relevant and impactful education that changes attitudes and actions.  I’ve found my encore career, and I could not feel more thankful.

Kathy Stevens, Accounting and Finance – I love working with such an amazing group of people! It’s so nice to be around people that are truly passionate about their work. I am a better person because of my AGE-u-cate family!

Mary Petersen, Director of Client Engagement – The corporate philosophy at AGE-u-cate aligns with my belief that customers are not just customers, but partners.  I admire and respect the people I work with.  We all share the same goal, to create an environment that fosters creativity for the development of motivational dementia education programs.

Michelle Terry, Marketing Manager – At AGE-u-cate I have the opportunity to work alongside a passionate, empathetic and intelligent team and live out a marketer’s dream – represent quality programs that truly make a difference and that I am passionate about.

Pam Brandon, President/Founder, AGE-u-cate Training Institute – It is an honor and privilege to work alongside such outstanding individuals who share a passion to make a positive difference in the world.  We’ve accomplished so much together, and we have so much more to do – it’s all very exciting!

Tammy Craig, Training Operations – I am grateful to be a part of a family (AGE-u-cate) that is genuinely passionate about helping the aged care community. It was evident from the beginning that empathy and care are driving forces behind creating programs to enhance the lives of care partners and the people who they care for.

V’Ann Giuffre, Senior Vice President Growth and Operations – ATI has brought together a group of professionals with individual knowledge and experience who share a desire to make a difference in our world. Being part of a company from its early days and watching it grow and develop has been a fantastic experience. I am continually intellectually challenged, pushed from my comfort zone, encouraged to grow professionally and learning from each member of this dynamic team.

Learn more about these professionals here.

Written by V’Ann Giuffre, VP Operations, AGE-u-cate.

V’Ann has been an education specialist in school, business and conference settings for over 20 years. She finds great satisfaction in making learning come alive for people, whether aged 3 or 93. She brings her energized teaching style to her role as Master Trainer for Dementia Live™ and Compassionate Touch® and is a Certified Ageless Grace™ Educator. As AGE-u-cate’s Vice President of Operations, V’Ann keeps the balls in the air, juggling logistical details. Born and raised in rural Central Texas, V’Ann now lives in Fort Worth.

Five Technology Innovations for Elders Living With Dementia

Technology can support safety and security for elders living in their homes.

Dementia is not only challenging for the person experiencing it, but it is also stressful and unsettling for loved ones.    However, as modern technology evolves, there are more options when it comes to caring for elders at home.

Technology cannot replace in-person care, however,  it can be a tool to help caregivers feel more secure.   Here are the top 5 technological innovations to consider if you have a loved one living at home with dementia.

1.    GPS Location and Tracking Devices

Sadly, seniors with dementia have been known to wander and get lost, placing themselves in danger. GPS tracking devices are an important technology for caregivers to consider.  The tracking device will send an alert when the elder has left a certain area and is capable of locating the person and notifying emergency personnel if necessary.

2.    In-Home Cameras

In-home cameras allow elders to be monitored at all times.  Some allow you to talk to your loved one, and others will alert you when there is movement in the room. In addition to checking in on your loved one, you will also be able to make sure that there are no intruders and that he or she has locked the doors, turned off the oven, and any other minor task that could put him or her in danger. Consider installing these cameras in multiple rooms of your loved one’s home and be sure to get the entire room in the range of view.

3.    Communication Aids

As modern technology evolves, the way that humans communicate has also evolved. For some family members that do not live close to their loved ones, technology will help them stay connected.  Family members should ask their loved one’s caregiver to assist with connecting via Facetime, Skype, or Zoom for a video-chat visit.

4.    Motion Sensor Lights

Motion sensor lights have the ability to save lives as elders,  and especially those with dementia, are subject to falls at night. Seniors often trip and fall in the dark and the injuries that they suffer from these falls can be life-threatening and altering. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Motion lights are a technological solution to this issue.

Motion lights will detect movement in a room and can make getting around easier.  Instead of risking a fall walking to a light switch, the lights will turn on as soon as the elder stands up.  This technological innovation will help to support a safer environment for older adults.

5.    VitalTech

This cloud-based platform is an outstanding innovation worth considering. Launched in 2018, this technology comes in the form of a band worn by the elder. In addition to medication reminders, the VitalBand can also track:

  • Vital signs; heart and respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, etc.
  • Falls
  • Sleep quality
  • Physical activity

In case of injury, or when vital signs are questionable, the band will contact emergency services, allowing for 24/7 safety. Without delay,   information can be tracked and reported to medical providers.

Technology Advantage

It may be helpful to implement technology options to assist with caring for a loved one living with dementia and offer you more peace of mind.

About the Author

AGE-u-cate welcomes Kelsey Simpson as a guest contributor.

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others.  She currently works and writes for Comfort Keepers, in-home senior care.  She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.