NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - December 09, 2014) - The Alzheimer's Foundation of America's (AFA) Dementia Care Professionals of America (DCPA) division today announced two "Dementia Care Professionals of the Year" for 2014. This marks the first time two individuals have been awarded this distinction. Lorenzo Mejia, president of Acorn Home Care in Carrboro, N.C., and Dr. Gary Steinke, associate chief of geriatrics at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. are also the first male care partners to receive this honor.
"Not only are Mr. Mejia and Dr. Steinke dedicated to providing high-quality care that promotes the health and well-being of the individuals involved in their programs, but they are also passionate about working to effect change on a broader level -- through educating and supporting professionals and families and raising awareness of the disease in their communities," said Kristen Cribbs, AFA's national care standards manager. "This spirit of compassion, innovation, and service exemplify characteristics of truly outstanding dementia care professionals, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to acknowledge the good work that they are doing."
In addition to his home care business, Mejia cared for his mother who had Alzheimer's disease and serves on his county's Aging Advisory Board.
"I just try to bring the best experience possible to our clients and to solve their challenges through care," said Mejia. "The training I received through DCPA has given me lots of tools to apply."
Such tools include music therapy, which client Amy Cutrell, one of two people who nominated Mejia, said helped her father immensely. "My father played the accordion when he was young, and listening to old accordion music, like Lawrence Welk, was a big hit. The ongoing process of going through old CDs and finding the songs that my dad liked became a great activity that the caregivers did with him. The first week we introduced the music, my dad's sleep improved considerably. When I am with him, I sometimes play his music for him and have notice that it helps reduce his agitation."
On the opposite coast, Dr. Steinke is devoted to the Alzheimer's Activity Center, a dementia-specific day program for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, which he founded with his wife in 1986. The Center currently can accommodate up to 90 participants per day and provides socialization and nutritional support, recreation and cognitive stimulation for individuals with mild to advanced dementia. It also hosts a daily intergenerational activity in collaboration with the preschool housed on-site. In this program, children aged two to five visit for arts and crafts, gardening, singing or story time.
Among the many ways he goes above and beyond at the Center, Dr. Steinke provides dementia-specific training for staff, leads monthly caregiver support groups, and conducts free, 30-minute "Ask Dr. Steinke" sessions on a quarterly basis. During these sessions, caregivers can call to discuss concerns about themselves and their loved ones, running the gamut from medication, self-care, supportive communication strategies, and more.
"It's pretty wonderful to receive this award," said Steinke, who hopes to leverage the award to further promote the Center and ultimately, expand its services. On December 10, he will be recognized in a special ceremony, honoring his receipt of the Dementia Care Professional of the Year award.
DCPA offers training, qualification, continuing education and other services to dementia care professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides and therapists. DCPA has trained more than 8,000 professionals since the division was founded in 2004. For more information, visit www.careprofessionals.org.
Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA)
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,700 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a toll-free hot line staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers, and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter, and "like" us on Facebook.