Taking care of people with cognitive deficits—dementia of all kinds and
Alzheimer’s Disease—can be taxing, and overwhelming for a caregiver. And for residents at
The Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center in Gillette, Wyoming, there is one caregiver who has outshined many of
her excellence team members:
Kami Kearns, CNA, MA-C, who works on the Cottonwood and Pine Place neighborhoods.
In December 2018, Kami learned that she received Campbell County Health's
most prestigious honor, The Legend Award. For those who don't know,
CCH defined a Legend as, “those people who have left an indelible
impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration
of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone
Kami has worked in health care for 13 years and joined CCH in October 2011.
Okaloosa Applied Technology Center in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where she received her high school diploma
along with a certificate in Computer Technology. She later earned her
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Parthenon Healthcare in Crestview, Florida in 2005. While working
for CCH, she’s taken the CNA II course, and the
Medication Aide (MA-C) course to further develop her caregiving skills. She’s also
done some training on dementia through
Wyoming Center on Aging.
Anyone who knows Kami will tell you that she brings her best every single
day to “her residents,” as she calls them.
“She never lets a bad day get in the way of providing the very best
care to residents and family members,” says
Chelsey Petersen, RN, Administrative Director of Nursing at The Legacy. “It truly
does not matter if you observe Kami interacting with a resident with significant
memory loss or see her pass on information about care to a colleague;
her tone is full of intentional compassion, the information she shares
is patient centered, and her dedication to provide the best care is clear—every
During Christmas, Kami created a holiday gift that all of the residents
could give to their loved ones: casts of the residents’ fingerprint
with a poem added to it that was carefully crafted into a Christmas ornament.
She did this with her own supplies—thus, creating an engaging activity
for the residents, and a very special gift for their loved ones.
“The residents aren’t able to provide gifts for their loved
ones,” says Kami. “I wanted to give them an opportunity to
be able to give a gift over the holiday.”
When Kami heard about Gillette’s first
Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2018, she was one of the first to step up to volunteer. She focused
her energy on getting residents at The Legacy to participate and their
families to join in—organizing, participating in and leading fundraising
activities, making T-shirts for residents in the dementia care units,
and bringing the spirit of the Walk to the
Memory Support Unit through decorations and “cheering” everyone on. Kami walked
with the residents during the day of the event, demonstrating her commitment
to finding a cure for the disease.
If you can’t tell, Kami has a special touch with people with dementia
and, according to her nomination form, is often the go-to person to assist
in high stakes situations with these residents. This inspires her colleagues
to be better, and even inspires family members to understand the disease
process better and how they can interact with their loved ones.
“Kami has the keen ability to identify less than ideal situations
for residents, and address them quickly with her team to prevent gaps
in care,” says Chelsey. “Kami’s approach in these situations
is always respectful, patient-centered, and more often than not, motivates
others to rise to the occasion of finding better solutions.”
In fact, when it comes to caring for residents with dementia, leadership
can often hear staff who are in difficult situations with these residents
say, “What would Kami do?”
“I like working for CCH because I enjoy being a caregiver, and coming
in everyday and seeing how the residents respond to me—even when
they can’t communicate the best anymore,” says Kami. “The
staff I work with is amazing and together we make a good team.”
It’s examples such as this that make Kami a bright star at The Legacy,
and throughout CCH. Peers consistently work to mirror her creative ways
to approach a resident with dementia.
“Kami is passionate about ensuring her team cares for the residents
Jonni Belden, RN, Vice President of Continuing Health Services. “Kami knows that
the residents did not choose to be here, and it is her responsibility
is to treat them with compassion and respect. We’re lucky to have
her at The Legacy.”
Kami seeks out training in dementia care, not only through the education
provided by CCH, but on her own. And, after she has gone to training,
she frequently implements the resources she’s acquired, such as
interventions using music to reach residents with dementia and soft physical
approaches. Another example is her ongoing advocacy in providing daily
foot and hand care beyond the basics such as incorporating massage, relaxation
and a calm environment for residents.
Kami is frequently brainstorming with staff and leaders to better care
for residents. In fact, currently Kami is working with the CCH Professional
Development staff and Nurse Directors in created a dementia training course
for all staff at The Legacy. She’ll be assisting during staff meetings
to provide hands-on, scenario-based education that is applicable to the
care provided at The Legacy.
“The legend award is a great honor for me to receive. I know that
people see what I do and appreciate it,” says Kami. “Working
where I do each day is very different and it is a constant challenge to
make sure you meet the resident’s needs. Earning this award means
so much to me. I am here for the residents and want them to feel like
they are at home as much as possible.”
When Kami isn’t at work, or busy learning more about dementia, she
loves to be outside—camping, fishing and kayaking.
“I also enjoy doing crafts, cooking, puzzles, sewing, and crocheting—although
one of the residents taught me so I don’t know if it right or not,
but it looks good either way,” she says with a smile.
Kami, you are a very bright star to all at CCH, and an excellent example
of what we consider a Legend. Thank you for your compassionate nature
and respect for our residents. You have left a permanent impression here.
Is there a CCH employee who went the extra mile or shows you extraordinary
service? Give them a pat on the back by completing an
Excellence Every Day card.