Now in its second year, the Dementia Advocate Group meets quarterly to learn about best practices to help those living with dementia. Funded by a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and led by Mimi DeVinney, dementia specialist, the group consists of shahbazim from various neighborhoods at St. John’s Home who attend trainings and share insight with their peers.

Not only does the group attend trainings and listen to lectures, they collectively discuss issues from their neighborhoods and work together to achieve a solution. “I like to listen to difficulties or problems that my peers are experiencing because if they have a solution that works for them, maybe it can help my floor also,” states Kenny Johnson. “It’s rewarding for us when we go to a different floor and we can redirect somebody if they are having an issue,” Nicole Veitch continues, “It’s all about the approach or tone of voice – you’d be amazed what you can do.”

If there is one thing the group came to a consensus upon, it was the importance of communication. “It can get frustrating on the floor, especially if you don’t have the proper training,” Nicole explains, “Through this program we now have the knowledge and skills to go to different measures to help not only our residents, but our co-workers as well.”

For some individuals, their roles as shahbaz do not end when the work day ends. Eloise Wiggins was a caregiver for her mother for ten years. “Being a nurse and having that knowledge of dementia made it easier for me to take care of my mother,” explains Eloise. Like Eloise, almost everyone has been touched by a loved one or family member living with dementia.

Overall, the goal of the Dementia Advocate Group is to educate others, gain knowledge, and problem solve. It’s important to understand that each and every day is different and as an organization we must adapt to the changing needs of residents. For Gloria Greggs, having patience and a listening ear are crucial when caring for someone with dementia. “People with dementia talk in moments and you need to be able to understand that and have compassion.”

Though the group is currently full, employees who are interested are encouraged to apply.  The program will last through fall of 2018 with hopes of having select staff from each neighborhood trained to better understand the ever-changing world of dementia.


 For more information on the Dementia Advocate Group, contact Mimi DeVinney at 585-760-1294 or mdevinney@stjohnsliving.org