The Legacy offers staff training for dementia
Photos: Courtesy The Legacy Senior Communities
Dr. Tam Cummings speaks at a recent seminar at The Legacy Midtown Park. 

Residents’ families, public invited to hear expert Thursday, Nov. 18

By Deb Silverthorn

The Legacy Senior Communities has added dementia caregiver certification to its staff training, a move the organization believes will result in better care for the disease and greater community awareness. 

The training, a 12-hour curriculum with follow-up opportunities, is designed by renowned gerontologist Dr. Tam Cummings in order to better understand dementia and care for Dallas seniors. Cummings will share her expertise with The Legacy residents’ family members and the public at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 at The Legacy Midtown Park.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Dr. Tam to not only get every employee dementia caregiver certified, but also to help educate the greater Dallas community about dementia which is so often misunderstood,” said Melissa Orth, The Legacy Senior Communities president and CEO. “By studying the impact that the disease has on the brain itself, we are better able to identify and treat behaviors that result from the disease.”

In presentations offered in October and November, Cummings educated residents and guests at The Legacy campuses and led the 12-hour training for staff members of The Legacy at Home, The Legacy Willow Bend and The Legacy Midtown Park. Upon completion, each team member received a 12-chapter guidebook for reference and reflection and a “certified dementia caregiver” certificate.   The staff trainings were filmed and will be shared with all new hires. 

Dementia, like cancer, Cummings teaches, is an umbrella term. It indicates at least two of the four lobes of the brain are currently affected and the presence of one (or more) of 48 dementias has been or should be identified.

Cummings created a Dementia Behavioral Assessment Tool that identifies seven stages of the disease as well as a caregiver self-assessment questionnaire and stress relief tips for dementia caregivers. 

Cummings reports that an estimated 5.7 million Americans are now believed to have Alzheimer’s Disease, which is just one of the 48 identifiable dementias. Every 68 seconds, another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When adding in Alzheimer’s with the other 47 identified forms of dementia, including Lewy Body, Vascular Dementia, nine types of Frontotemporal Degeneration, Parkinson’s Dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff’s (alcohol dementia), Huntington’s, AIDs dementia and more, the  number of Americans in some stage of dementia is more likely between 10 and 11 million, she said.

“With more baby boomers coming into senior demographics, the numbers of those with dementia will increase and so many more will need our care,” said Orth. “The end result of our training efforts is that we will reduce behaviors, reduce depression, improve engagement and keep the residents happier.”

By understanding more about the stages and tracking of a patient with dementia, caregivers and family members can more effectively redirect them without upsetting them, and more easily know how to physically approach residents without drawing out combativeness. Cummings’ curriculum teaches that, simply put, every day gets better for everyone involved.

“I’ve worked in long-term care for 20 years and I’ve had a lot of dementia training. Dr. Tam is incredible with how she breaks down the disease, simplifies it and makes it truly recognizable,” said Amanda Robinson, The Legacy Willow Bend associate executive director. “Right away, we’ve seen the wheels of our employees turning as to how they can adapt what they learned. Twelve hours is a lot of training. It’s a lot to absorb, but it has been incredible.”

The author of “Untangling Alzheimer’s” and “Untangling Dementia,” prior to creating her private practice, Cummings served as director of social work for a skilled nursing facility, program director for memory care communities and as a geriatric case manager for people with dementia.

Cummings addresses many subjects, including the history of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, coping with caregiver stress, how to communicate with dementia patients, identifying and working with combative dementia behaviors, understanding the stages of dementia, ethics and dementia case management and much more.  She breaks down the ‘a’s of dementia which include anxiety, anger, aggression, apathy to amnesia, aphasia, agnosia and apraxia.

“Our staff are grateful, truly grateful, for this opportunity. Tam is so engaging, and her program is interactive and easy to follow,” said Cheryl Weitz, The Legacy Midtown Park assisted living/memory support director. “Even in the short time since Tam first visited, I’ve seen my team interacting and engaging our residents in a different, and far more effective, way.” 

Cummings said The Legacy Senior Communities’ involvement has been pioneering. “In partnering on this project, The Legacy has picked up the mantle, they are treating dementia like the brain disease that it is. When we know better, we do better,” said Cummings.  “The Legacy team is unbelievable.  Its leadership said ‘if this is what it takes, then this is what we’ll do.’ They have all come ready to learn, caring so deeply and so obviously loving what they do.”

For more information, or to RSVP to The Legacy event, call 214-379-6700 or email

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