Minnesota caregiver receives national recognition for service to dementia patients

Word was spreading at senior care community Friendship Village of Bloomington that one of its professional caregivers would be receiving national recognition for her work.

The CNA of the Year Award, given by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP), is one of the most prestigious for caregivers who work with residents with dementia. As Katelyn Reichow entered the banquet room on Dec. 11 with residents and fellow staff members, excitement was building over who was getting the honor.

Reichow asked her supervisor if she knew who was the recipient, not noticing her mother, father and boyfriend sitting in the audience.

“I have my suspicions,” her supervisor replied.

Peege Good hugs award winner Katelyn Reichow after reading the letter she wrote to the NCCDP on Reichow’s behalf.

Lynn Biot-Gordon, the chief operating officer for the council of dementia practitioners, stood before the audience and described how the winner possessed a “remarkable ability to connect with residents who are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.”

Then, Biot-Gordon cited a specific example of the award-winner’s creativity: “Recently, in one of our neighborhoods, all the residents were early for dinner for an unknown reason. While they were waiting to enter the dining room, she chose a book with which to engage them. This turned into impromptu sing-along and discussion. Instead of waiting quietly with them, she turned this moment into an experience.”

Excited murmurs rippled through the room as everyone craned to see who Biot-Gordon might be talking about.

Reichow began to cry.

Biot-Gordon confirmed for the audience what Reichow had just figured out – she had earned the 2018 CNA of the Year Award. Cheers and a standing ovation greeted her as she made her way to the stage.

At the podium, Reichow thanked everyone and added that she had just found out she had made it into the nursing program at Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie.

“I love working here,” she said.

Biot-Gordon explained the NCCDP’s mission to promote standardized dementia education for frontline staff nationwide. Every year, the NCCDP receives between 100 and 150 applications from across the country for the CNA of the Year award. The award recognizes not only completion of the NCCDP course, but the “heart, compassion and soul” of individuals who are a “motivating force” for their coworkers.

Perhaps the most poignant testimony to Reichow’s “transcendent delivery” of NCCDP curriculum standards were the words of Peege Good, a Friendship Village resident whose husband spent a year in memory care with Reichow as his assigned CNA.

Good read her letter to the NCCDP, which highlighted Reichow’s sunny demeanor, steadiness and gentle, but assured, confidence. “I watched her intervene numerous times to avert falls and prevent difficult situations from escalating,” Good said.

Katelyn holds a bouquet of lilies as Sara Hamm, Vice President of Successful Aging at Friendship Village, speaks. “This award is so much better than Miss America!” Hamm said. Pictured in the audience are Katelyn’s boyfriend, mother and father.

Jennifer Bever, the administrator at Friendship Village, described how Reichow stands out by the way she connects with others.

“She’s intentional about making small little moments experiences, not just tasks,” Bever said.  “I’d want Katelyn caring for me or my family members. We don’t award people enough in the busyness of the day-to-day, so it’s an honor to be able to recognize Katelyn.”

In fact, Reichow’s photo will soon appear in Times Square in New York City, along with her name and the title of the coveted national award.

When asked about the best part of her job, Reichow answered without hesitation. “My residents. Not only am I helping them, but they’re helping me.”

Reichow, who grew up in Richfield, was always interested in the health care field. When she decided to take a community education class about senior care at her mother’s encouragement, she found her calling as a CNA. After completing her training and certification through Richfield-Bloomington community education, Reichow was hired at Friendship Village, where she’s worked for the past four years.

Serving seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has impacted Reichow’s perspective on memory care.

“I feel like they’re trapped inside, and they can’t control most of the stuff they do,” Reichow said. “But half of them is still there, and I like to get that half out.”

Founded in 2003, the NCCDP promotes standards of excellence in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease education to professionals and other caregivers who provide services to dementia clients. With 200,000 members and more than 1,000 trainers in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, the NCCDP equips caregivers to serve a rapidly growing number of seniors living with dementia through comprehensive training. For more information, visit https://www.nccdp.org.

Anna Paulson is a regulator contributor to Face Aging MN. If you want to reach her or have any questions, you can reach us at info@faceagingmn.org. Have your own story to share? We’d love to hear from you.


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