BrainWise: Providing Support for Covid-19 Caregivers

Posted On: July 14, 2020
Chrissy SwansonResidents and staff of nursing homes and other skilled nursing care centers have borne the brunt of COVID-19 deaths and illnesses.  In a search for mental health resources to support her staff at Colonial Columns, a SAVA Senior Care facility in Colorado Springs, administrator Chrissy Swanson contacted the El Paso County Public Health for help.  She talked with Prevention and Policy Specialist Paula Hergert, an educator with 35 years of experience who was helping staff the county’s COVID-19 response team.
Paula recommended BrainWise, and Chrissy agreed when she recognized that the 10 Wise Ways complemented and enhanced existing programs they used including many provided by El Paso County Public Health  She also liked that the program complemented the theme of the National Skilled Nursing Home Care Week – “Sharing Our Wisdom.”
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Paula Hergert, MA  Public Health Prevention and Policy Specialist El Paso County Public Health                               

Chrissy was especially interested to learn how the skills could be applied to behaviors and emotions as she wanted to find ways to create a culture of safety and help alleviate her managers and staffs’ fears for their own safety as well as of their patients.  Supervisors and staff were exhausted; there were many unknowns and it seemed like the CDC issued and changed guidelines almost daily. Statistics were indicating that 90 percent of Covid-19 deaths were among people 60 years or older.  No pattern was emerging and care facilities with high safety ratings were impacted as frequently as those with poor ratings.

Colonial Columns reported three Covid-19 cases – two staff members and one resident. All three recovered. They had stopped the spread, but tensions remained high.  Chrissy also was concerned about staff retention and wanted to help them feel safe while giving intimate and compassionate care to health-compromised and highly vulnerable patients.
Paula started teaching a series of BrainWise classes on ZOOM.  The staff were enthusiastic participants, and quickly recognized how they could use the skills and apply them to their problems.  Paula established a rapport and bond with the staff members over several Zoom BrainWise sessions, and all felt that the program gave them tools they could implement immediately.
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Colonial Columns Skilled Nursing Care Staff Members are BrainWise
After BrainWise had been implemented, nursing supervisor Michelle Graves described the change she felt.  She said BrainWise made her realize that she had been on the 10th floor every day following the pandemic’s outbreak.  After using the 10 Wise Ways, she said she is on the second floor.
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Michelle Graves, RN, Director of Nursing
CDC Infection Prevention Certified

Chrissy and Michelle feel the staff has benefitted from the terms they have learned to describe problem situations and feelings. This has increased communication and helped staff members feel they are being heard.  They said the 10 Wise Ways help the team be more accountable.  Chrissy calls her employees  “heroic” and is pleased that she could offer BrainWise to help them cope with the unprecedented demands of Covid-19.  The health care team members are outstanding care givers and passionate protectors of their patients.

As of June 11, the AARP estimates at least 43,000 long-term care patients and staff have died nationwide.  It is going to be a long-term battle.  Paula will continue to  be a champion for teaching BrainWise so caregivers, educators, and families learn skills that help them cope with the challenges they face.
She said that  El Paso County has an Elder Abuse Coalition and they are applying for a grant to create a center for abused seniors.  She sees BrainWise as being a terrific program for the center.
When program users talk about BrainWise, they frequently mention “stop and think” and “Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain” as the most helpful skills. This is the foundation they need to build the series of thinking concepts – also called executive functions – that will help them master problem solving and decision making.  This foundation helps them build brain circuitry that diverts impulses and emotions from the amygdala/Lizard Brain to the prefrontal cortex/Wizard Brain.
The 10 Wise Ways help children and adults understand that they have control over how they react to problems. In concrete terms, they recognize the differences between thinking and emotions and why using the ten tools help them make wise choices.  A big shout out to Paula Hergert and her vision to teach BrainWise as a program to give support to front line Covid-19 workers.
Thank you and be safe!
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Dr. Pat

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On a Lighter Note…

The Greatest Showman was a 2018 hit movie that promoted inclusion and that no dream is impossible.  The following song, “From Now On,” is an uplifting and inspiring presentation.  The cast is filmed out of costume and during a practice session.
The Greatest Showman |
The Greatest Showman | “From Now On” with Hugh Jackman | 20th Century FOX

American Tragedy Discussion Series (July 7th -July 16th)

I have been asked to speak about BrainWise for a mental health discussion series that will be offered free.  My presentation will be on Tuesday, July 14th  at 9PM EST.  Please check out the other presenters and Join the Conversation.  The sessions follow the public release of American Tragedy, the award-winning documentary on mental health and the killings at Columbine High School.
Speakers include Tom Insel (former president of NIMH), Peter Langman (school shooter psychologist), Krystal Allen (a major player in promoting mental wellness and justice in school systems), Anthony Biglan (senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute), Liza Long (author of “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”), and many more.
To participate:
1 Follow this event page and/or our YouTube channel

2 Choose which talks you want to attend. The discussion series is free. Tune in here or on YouTube almost any night between July 7-16 and join the conversation.
3 Purchase and watch American Tragedy when it is released
on July 7.
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