Join us every THURSDAY for a new episode

Listen for LIFE Podcast

If you know the word aphasia, you are in the right place. If you know of or have personal experience with stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s Disease, Primary Progressive Aphasia, or other neurological events, then keep listening. This podcast is for you. Learn about stroke recovery and living your best life.

CHECK OUT THE LATEST
👈🏻 EPISODES HERE

E14: Your Dementia Therapist: Empowering Caregivers

Mary Osborne wants to change the narrative about dementia and support caregivers at YourDementiaTherapist.com.

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE ABOUT DEMENTIA

Mary Osborne wants to change the narrative about dementia and support caregivers. Her company YourDementiaTherapist.com is a consulting business in Austin, Texas. She offers comprehensive education and training for caregivers through her course, Caregiver's Guide to Dementia: How to Increase Quality of Life without Drowning in Overwhelm.  The course is available to caregivers wherever they live.

Mary is working with dementia, as I am working with stroke survivors with aphasia. To learn more about LIFE's mission, please visit DoLIFESpeechPathology.com.

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME, MARY OSBORNE

Mary: I started writing down all of the things I was experiencing that I was struggling with when I first started working in dementia care. Started writing down what my clients were struggling with, the concerns that they were coming to me for, and just the questions that they had... I combined it all into a course, and I'm just excited to get this information out into the world because I feel like there's not enough education on dementia out there.

INTRODUCTION

Genevieve: Well, good afternoon, Mary.

Mary: Hi, how are you?

Genevieve: I'm fabulous. I am so excited. We have been putting off this recording.

Mary: I know. I'm like, let me get the course out.

Genevieve: I know, right?

So let me give the audience a little background. Mary and I were introduced through a mutual colleague who thought, with me doing speech pathology and you being an occupational therapist, that we should get together. I'm grateful to Greg for introducing us.

Mary: Yes, me too. I'm so excited.

Genevieve: So, everybody, this is Mary Osborne. Mary, tell us the name of your company and how they can find you on the website.

YOUR DEMENTIA THERAPIST

Mary: Yes. So I'm Mary. I'm an occupational therapist here in Austin. My company's called Your Dementia Therapist, and you can find me at yourdementiatherapist.com.

And I'm on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest @Your Dementia Therapist. I will say I do the majority of my work on Instagram through daily videos, so make sure y'all check those out as well.

Genevieve: Mary is my idol for social media. She has such incredible content. Mary, I'm so grateful to know you because social media is not my thing. You have set an amazing example of what a clinician can do to get good content out to the community that they serve.

Mary: You're so sweet. I've always loved creating things and, you know, making fun videos. So that is just kind of, I feel like that's where I shine, and that's where, you know, I can reach millions of people around the world and share and spread awareness on dementia care. So it's really cool to see that this information is not just something that people here in Texas can have access to.

You know, it's all over. So it's a really cool thing. I love it.

We'll get you all into this too.

Genevieve: Oh boy. Yeah.

That's gonna be a steep learning curve. So, Greg introduced us because he thought with you being an occupational therapist and working in the dementia space and how passionate you are about it, that you and I would be a good fit together because I'm in speech pathology. I'm in the stroke, aphasia, and neurologic space.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Genevieve: Like you and I, we are kindred spirits. So, Mary and I have gotten together in person multiple times, and time flies. We have so much to talk about, and it's all professional and trying to reach the folks we're trying to reach.

Mary: Yes, for sure. I know we both share the same passion. It's just really cool to connect with professionals that are passionate about what they do, and they love it.

Genevieve: All right. I wanna talk about your course. Mary has worked so hard, everybody. She has put together this amazing course. Tell us a little bit about it, and at the end, tell us where we can find your course.

AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST WITH A MISSION

Mary: I've been working as an occupational therapist for the last 10 years. I've worked directly with individuals who are living with dementia. I've educated their family members and staff members on different approaches and just things that I found that were working throughout the different interventions that I was doing with these patients. And long story short, I created a consulting company last year and opened it up. I have clients here in Austin, Texas. My clients are family members who are taking care of a loved one who's living with dementia. And over this past year, when I first started the company and just since then, I started writing down all of the things I was experiencing that I was struggling with when I first started working in dementia care. Started writing down what my clients were struggling with, the concerns that they were coming to me for, and just the questions that they had. So, what I did was I wrote these things down, I combined it all into a course, and I'm just excited to get this information out into the world because I feel like there's not enough education on dementia out there.

You know, I had someone actually called me recently who had a diagnosis of dementia recently diagnosed and was telling me that he was left to a Google search, you know, to find out more about the diagnosis because no one was talking to him about it. It's one of those things that I just, I knew I needed to make a bigger impact on the world.

I saw how my social media followers were increasing, and I was like, The world needs this education. With that being said, so my course is about the difference between normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia. I talk about some different things involved in a dementia diagnosis, talk about a few different types of dementia and symptoms, and I say a few different types because there are over a hundred different types.

So this is just kind of like a general course. Just to kind of give you an overview, I talk about just different brain changes that impact function and different things to expect throughout the stages and with the stages of dementia. I have broken those up into early, middle, and late. What I've done with my program is that I've taken common impairments that I've seen, but I'm talking about how you can focus on the abilities that someone has within that impairment and increase the quality of life for the person. I also talk about different approaches that I've used and different tips that I've found success with that have led to improved outcomes, fewer refusals, and just quality of life.

FREE MINI-COURSE ABOUT DEMENTIA

Mary: I am a huge proponent of, like, how can I increase the quality of life for everyone involved? That's why I really enjoy this consulting company because I can focus on the client, who's the family member, who's taking care of their loved one. I put all my knowledge together of all the different treatment interventions that I've done. It's truly a beautiful thing when you can figure out how you can improve the quality of life for everybody. So, That's my goal and a little bit about my course and what it's about. So, you can access a free mini-course if you wanna check that out before you take the actual course. I was thinking maybe you could link that below because it's a long one.

Genevieve: Absolutely. We'll put all these links in the show notes.

Mary: Sorry, that was kind of an earful, but I just got really excited.

Genevieve: It's all good. It's all good. So, if someone were to call you, they come across your website. What's the process look like?

Mary: Yes. So, currently, I'm only accepting clients in Texas. So, they can call me, email me, and then, you know, I kind of chat with them about their concerns, what they're hoping to address within the session, and any kind of questions that they might have.

If they're a good fit for consulting, we go ahead, and I schedule them for the consulting visit. I send out an intake form. My intake form allows me to get to know the client's concerns, which is the person who's caring for their loved one who has dementia. So their top two concerns. And then I ask some questions about their loved ones. You know, what are, what are they able to do? Are they having difficulties getting their loved one to the bay, to dress, to eat, all the different things? Cause in the world of occupational therapy, we focus on what we call IDLs, which are the instrumental activities of daily living.

INDEPENDENT ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING and ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING

Mary: So these higher-level tasks, like the money management, the finances. We talk about cooking, cleaning, all of these different things. And then, we talk about ADLs, which are the activities of daily living. So that's like the bathing, dressing, grooming, hygiene, and if they're experiencing any difficulties in these areas and they wanna address this, then we'll talk about some different ways to tackle these concerns.

CONSULTING AVAILABLE IN TEXAS, C

Genevieve: So, currently, you are able to offer consulting services. Probably, most families need more than one consult, they need ongoing support, and you're able to help them do that through consulting services.

Mary: Mm-hmm.

EMBRACE HOPE WITHOUT FEELING HOPELESS IN DEMENTIA CARE COURSE

Genevieve: And then, I'm guessing your course can help supplement folks that are not in Texas that can take advantage of your one-to-one consulting services, so that's why you have the course.

Mary: Yes, that's exactly why I created it, you know, because it's impossible to meet with every individual person, you know?

Genevieve: Yes. I get it. I'm in 12 states. It's tough. So, I'm just picking, the husband calls you, you go through the intake form, you have an initial consult, and then you have visits and you can provide ongoing support as they need it past the initial training.

Mary: Yep. I send out a write-up of recommendations, so they'll have all of the recommendations that we spoke about in the consulting visit, and they'll just have that to refer back to if anything comes up. So it's really a cool thing for them to have access to these different strategies and different things that I talk about with them.

Genevieve: I'm a big believer in multimodal training. It's not just auditory because it's easy to process when you're on Zoom or in person talking with somebody.

Mary: Yes.

Genevieve: But you need that visual reinforcement.

Mary: Exactly. And sometimes, like during the consulting call, there are other questions, so I'm putting this into the document too. I'm like, don't worry, and this is all gonna be in there.

Genevieve: So could we talk in general, give the audience some tips either about dementia or changes in the brain? What would you like to talk about? Let's give them some takeaways.

POTENTIAL EARLY SIGNS OF DEMENTIA

Mary: Yes, Yes. So I always say, you know, if you have a loved one and you're concerned in any area with their cognition, let's say that you notice that they're repeating the same things over and over again. Or maybe you don't live with them, but you are visiting them, and you come across their pill organizer, and the pills are not taken out on the days they should be. And if you're noticing any impairments in their cognition? I would say this is something to talk to the doctor about.

SOME MEDICAL CONDITIONS PRESENT LIKE DEMENTIA BUT AREN'T

Mary: Because you wanna rule out and make sure this isn't dementia, right? Because there are a lot of things that can mimic the symptoms of dementia. You know, it could be like a urinary tract infection. It could be sleep disturbances or medication side effects. I mean, there are so many different things. So, any cognitive-related concern.

TALK TO THE PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR FIRST TO RULE OUT MEDICAL CONDITIONS

Mary: The first step, go see the primary care doctor and have them take a look, discuss the concerns, and see what might be going on. If it is a dementia diagnosis, typically, one of the first things that I notice with an individual who has dementia is difficulties performing those IDLs.

So those instrumental activities of daily living that I was talking to you about earlier. So, You might notice they're having difficulty with paying the bills or taking their medications at the times that they're supposed to be taking them, leaving the stove on or the oven on. There are just different things that this is typically what I see, like in the early stages of dementia.

Genevieve: Would you say primary care physicians are in a spot where they can do a quick screening in the office?

BLOOD WORK AND HEALTH SCREENING to RULE-OUT A MEDICAL CONDITION

Mary: Yes. What I'll probably do first is, you know, order blood work and just make sure all the labs are looking okay. And then, you know, discuss with you, like they're gonna review your medication, see if there could be a medication side effect.

They'll do a thorough review of everything. If they find that this could be something that looks a little bit more like dementia or, you know, they're more concerned about the cognitive, the severity of the cognitive impairment, then that's whenever they would refer to someone like a neurologist to further assess.

Genevieve: I would say neurologists are just like any of us in that they get a broad education. Are there some neurologists that are better at dementia than others?

Mary: Yeah, that's a great question. I would actually ask the primary care physician if they are concerned that it's something that they're gonna refer to a neurologist for, do you know anyone who specializes in cognitive impairments related to dementia?

I guess the first step would be honestly going to the neurologist and seeing what it could be. Then if it is dementia, maybe just talk to the neurologist about that. Here in Austin, it's hard to find someone that specializes specifically in dementia. So, I don't know how common that is in other places, but I know Dr. Bertelson here in town, and he's one of the only ones here. So, I'm not sure what it looks like in other places, but of course.

Genevieve: It could be something if the general family physician was not able to make a direct referral to a dementia neurologist. That would be something to Google.

Mary: Yeah, for sure. There could be neurologists out there whose main specialty is stroke, rehab, you know, so I guess it just depends. The primary care physician will probably know what neurologists specialize in, what that person might need, you know?

Genevieve: Speaking of Dr. Bertelson, you and he put together a guide, can you tell us a little bit about that?

DOWNLOAD MARY'S GUIDE: DementiaCaregiversGuide.com

Mary: Yes. So we put together a resource guide for caregivers and family members here in Austin, Texas, and it's called DementiaCareGiversGuide.com. And on the website, we just have a bunch of helpful resources related to caregiver wellness.

Different long-term care facilities and memory care and assisted living, transportation, hospice companies, just all the things that family members and caregivers were coming to us for questions that they had. We were like, Well, why don't we just put it together on a website? So then they'll have all those resources in case they need to look back at it. Like if they were like, oh, I need a home care company. Let me look at the website and see what's in the area. So, we put that together to just help family members and caregivers who are taking care of your loved one to make their life easier.

Genevieve: Yeah, and you bring up a good point. So, just knowing what questions for a caregiver to start asking, to start thinking ahead towards facilities, if there are the finances available to have in-home care, you know, those kinds of things. I'm gonna plug my own podcast. You need to look at episode number five, where I interview at Always Best Care home care company with some great questions if you have to hire somebody to come in. What else, Mary? What else would you like folks to know about dementia and not sweep it under the rug? I think that's one of the take-home messages I personally want to share.

Mary: Yes.

Genevieve: You see something, say something you need to help get involved because dementia is not a big area that I have worked in. I do know that it can progress, and sometimes it's not the worst-case scenario that a family member might be worried about. It's better to get to the doctor, get the labs, and look at the whole person.

Mary: Yes, for sure. If it is a dementia diagnosis, really focusing on what that person is able to do wherever they're at, whatever stage of dementia that they're in, focus on their abilities because we can't focus on what's gone and what we can't get back, right?

So, what we can do is focus on the things that they can do and make the quality of life better for everybody involved. It's such a dark diagnosis, and no one asked for this. Caregivers and family members did not ask for this. They're being thrown into a situation they didn't ask for.

A person who's living with dementia didn't ask for this diagnosis, but if there's a way that we can really just focus on that person and what they're able to do, then this is where the magic happens in dementia care. I always share the story of I was working with an individual in a memory care unit, and I'll never forget this.

BUILDING ON A PERSON'S STRENGTHS

Mary: It's a small memory care unit, and this individual's husband was like, "You know, I would love for my wife to be able to wheel herself in the wheelchair." And I was asking, I was like, "ok, tell me a little bit about her." You know, what was she able to do in the past? What did she like to do? And she was in the stage of dementia where she couldn't answer these questions for me, so I had him tell me a little bit about her. And he's like, "she really enjoyed golf." And when I asked her, "you know, I heard you used to play golf,” she could answer, "Yes, no question." So I actually used golf in my approach to getting her to help wheel her wheelchair. And it was so cool to see that the husband was able to see how she was able to propel her wheelchair with my assistants and then participate in this game of chair golf.

She was able to participate in the game of chair golf and able to propel her chair. And when her husband saw this, he was like, "Wow, I didn't know if she could do any of this."

So, focus on the abilities. Focus on what they used to love to do and what they're able to do now, and see if there's a way that you can come up with something creative to help with that person's sense of purpose and independence by focusing on these things. But I always think about that story because he was just like, Wow, that is, that was really cool.

Genevieve: And it's something they could do together.

Mary: Yes, for sure.

Genevieve: It's a common goal, right? Working towards it.

Mary: And you could tell she was so great at golf because every single goal she would make in that hole, I mean, she was amazing. It was just such a cool thing to see.

Genevieve: So, focusing on the abilities, I love that as your take-home message.

Mary: That's one of my biggest things in dementia care is focusing on what that person's able to do.

Genevieve: And as an occupational therapist, you have a unique perspective on how people can set up their house for safety and how they can give the right kind of cues for where their person is functioning at that moment in time to maximize independence and safety and

Mary: Exactly. And actually, in my course, I have eBooks in the course, which are broken up into the early, middle, and late stages. I talk about some of these just recommendations and tips for each stage and like focusing on, and of course, it's general recommendations, but from what I've seen over the years, I've just gathered these different tips and put it all into an ebook.

Genevieve: Love it. Okay, so I'm thinking we need to send folks to your website because I've seen your blogs. They are amazing. You have so much content in there, let alone what's on your Instagram page. So we'll make sure to link all of that in the show notes. Anything else before we wrap up today?

Mary: Yeah, I think that's it. Thank you so much for having me. I always enjoy chatting with you.

Genevieve: This is fun.

Mary: Yes.

Genevieve: All right. Thank you so much, Mary, and I wish you absolutely the best with your new course. And folks, you need to check out the mini-course that she has up. You can link to it from your website, correct?

Mary: Yeah.

Genevieve: See how Mary teaches, see her personality, see her passion. It's going to lead you right into her course. I'm so excited for you and for all of the individuals that you're gonna positively impact with the information you have pulled together.

I WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD OF DEMENTIA

Mary: My goal. I'm always like, I wanna change the world of dementia here. I literally have a tattoo that says, "be the change,” so.

Genevieve: Oh, I think we need a picture of it.

Mary: Be the change.

Genevieve: Oh, there it's. I love it. Terrific. Thank you so much, Mary.

Mary: Thank you.

Categories: professionals to know, resources for seniors