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CNA Legend at The Legacy an advocate for people with dementia

CNA Legend at The Legacy an advocate for people with dementia

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 a legend.”

Kami has worked in health care for 13 years and joined CCH in October 2011. Kami attended 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 single time.”

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 well,” says 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. Congratulations.

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.