Terri Brandley: Dedicated to Spreading Dementia Awareness
Why This Work Matters: My Aunt Rita
My Aunt Rita was my inspiration to start this business. She suffered the effects of dementia until she passed away in 2018. She was my dad’s sister, my mom’s best friend, my godmother, and I was named after her when I was born in 1961. Aunt Rita was a brilliant schoolteacher, highly intelligent, and pushed my cousins to always be the best that they could be. She had a busy and productive life, and she loved to talk to you on the phone for ages. She was proud of me for becoming a nurse. I was the first nurse in our family since her grandmother. She was also very proud that my cousins and I had served in the Navy. In 2017-2018, my uncle and cousins contacted me with concerns after a doctor visit in their small town about her confusion and the ultimate dementia diagnosis because I am the family nurse. She deteriorated fairly quickly and, sadly, she didn’t have an educated advocate. When I went to visit her, she had lost 50 lbs. and was eating mushed, pureed food. I reviewed her chart and talked with her providers, asking a lot of questions. I found out that she had a normal swallow study six months before, and that no one bothered to change her diet to regular appetizing foods. She had not had any dementia therapies earlier in her course of care because no one explained dementia to my uncle and my cousins about what was happening to her, possible options, therapies or management.
There was little out there in the way of education or support during this time for her or them. Over the course of her dementia, Aunt Rita became increasing isolated from her community, limited to being at home. Her last days were ultimately spent in a nursing home in her small town in California where she was confused until she passed away.
In my work with the elderly, I see this story played out again and again. Aunt Rita’s story (and so many others) have made me realize how much those with dementia NEED our help—Not only to get the quality of care, support and treatment options, but to be able to socialize and do business in their communities over the course of their disease. I now teach long-term care caregivers in WA State as a DSHS Instructor about the importance of dementia education and advocacy in providing Quality of Care for those affected by dementia and their loved ones. I have testified to state workgroups about the needs for quality dementia education, and worked with home health agencies, adult family homes and assisted living facilities to improve quality and access to care, as well as family/caregiver support options. The next logical step is community engagement for those affected by dementia and support of their loved ones.
Towards this end, we have developed Dementia Education, Training, Advisory Services and a Certification Program for Businesses/ Communities to become Dementia-Friendly, as seen in the video on our home page. Our company’s aim is to provide information and training similar to the “Dementia Friends” model seen in the UK and around the world. Aunt Rita and my family were the spark that ignited the passion in me to make a change. I think she would be happy that her experiences could help others.
--Rita Theresa (“Terri”) Brandley, RN, MHPE, BSN, CCM
Rita “Terri” Brandley is a registered nurse (RN) with more than 30 years of experience in different areas of nursing including gerontology, traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussion, veterans, military, case management, life care planning and more. She holds a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree from Louisiana State University, a Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE) degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a Certification in Case Management (CCM). Terri is a veteran, having served as a Navy Nurse in the Washington DC area and Keflavik, Iceland. She is originally from New Orleans and moved to WA State in 2015 with her husband Dirk, son Clay and 2 dogs. She and Dirk also have four grown daughters and five grandchildren. Terri is passionately dedicated to advocating for her clients, having raised awareness and starting traumatic brain injury and concussion programs at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and University of Kansas Hospital. Terri also has a passion for gerontology, teaching, veterans’ issues and especially dementia. She has worked tirelessly in various long-term care settings and educational systems to improve the care received by those suffering from dementia. She is dedicated to the health, well-being and quality of life for dementia sufferers through caregiver education and promotion of dementia-friendly homes, businesses and communities.