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Life and Work with Jill Fleming Lorentz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Fleming Lorentz.

Jill, can you walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I became interested in learning as much as I could about Alzheimer’s and other dementias when my mom, Dee, began showing signs of memory loss when she was just 58. It was devastating to see the most important person in my life, suffering with cognitive impairment in memory loss. I made it my mission in life to try to understand what was happening to her and how I could best positively affect her upcoming journey. I started reading every book I could get my hands on, studying research, and effective communication skills which could help my family with my mom’s new reality.

My mom was such a sweet and loving person. As a mother of six kids, she always encouraged us to be the best we could be. Her theory was “dream it, believe it, achieve it!” She was a PTA mom, neighborhood activity director, and took in every stray child or dog that came to our door. She fixed our broken hearts, read bedtime stories, taught us to dance, love, be a friend, the importance of volunteering and giving to others, and so much more. I dreaded the day when I would look at my mom and she wouldn’t know who I was. This is a reality for any family living with memory loss.

Almost immediately, I started working with the Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer on the helpline, assisting families in distress. Through the years, I read the books that we sold at the front desk for their efficacy. I also facilitated support groups, worked on the education symposium and taught classes for families and professionals about the various types of dementia and their symptoms. I also managed the Walk to End Alzheimer’s for five years in Denver.

Everything didn’t always go as planned, 18 years into mom’s disease, she needed 24-hour care. Her stay at the 1st nursing home was a disaster. They heavily medicated her with no focus on treating a symptom. This happens in many places and is a family’s worst fear. The story is long and complicated, but the bottom line is that I proved that the home was mistreating my mom and took them to task. Through this situation, the state of Illinois changed two states laws based on my mom’s case; 1st – no one with a criminal record can work in nursing homes in Illinois, and 2nd – gradual dose reductions are required every 90 days so that a patient/resident is not restrained with medical/chemical force. We took legal action against the nursing home, doctor and pharmacy and won, the 1st case in the U.S. where we proved they damaged a person with a degenerative brain disease. The punitive amount was small, but we gave it all to research and Alzheimer’s caregiver education.

In August 2012, after 23 years of my mom living with Alzheimer’s, we lost her to this disease. I want my mom’s life to leave a legacy of caring, compassion, and understanding of people with memory loss and cognitive impairment. As the information resource officer for my own family, I wanted to take what we learned and share with others to help them be successful. It is devastating to lose someone that you love to any type of dementia. When the day finally came when my mom didn’t recognize me, it was the saddest day of my life. If I can teach others about resilience, overcoming obstacles and adversity to find a positive outcome, I know I can make a difference in their journey.

In March 2015, I decided to start my own company called Summit Resilience Training. The Alzheimer’s Association had ceased facilitating the professional and family classes called the Savvy Caregiver, and Leaders in Dementia Care. I felt this left a void in the community for family education as well as for professionals, so I wrote my own programs and was on my way. Another component that was missing was in-home assessments to assist families in communication skills, strategies and techniques, and proper ways of assisting their loved ones in their own environments.

My family caregiver class is designed to teach families about the brain, the cognitive functions, and what you will see when these areas are impaired. This helps caregivers understand why a person is behaving in a certain way at various times. We talk about caregiver stress and how to make their lives more peaceful, as well as the financial strains that might appear as a result of the disease of their loved one. I also provide an empathy exercise which helps the caregiver truly understand what their loved one is experiencing when cognitive impairment is present. This is a game changer for many families as they had no idea what the symptoms were like for their loved ones. Once you’ve been through this there is no denying your enlightenment.

Understanding Alzheimer’s and various dementia’s and their symptoms are important, as well as understanding the history of the individual themselves. My focus is person-centered care, where we understand the person with the disease, as a human being with preferences, routines, and a life story that will remain important during their care. I teach professional caregivers how to utilize a person’s life story to enhance their care and utilize cueing skills that extend to emotional, physical, and psychological enjoyment. Allowing the person with memory loss and cognitive impairment to do as much as they can for as long as they can have to be the central focus.

In October 2016, I was asked by Entercom Radio if I would like to host a program sharing my insights and techniques. I said yes, and started my show, Dementia Resilience with Jill Lorentz. I began the show to help families in the smallest corners of the world and big cities so that they could have some help in the understanding and education, as well providing support, as they are living with these dementia diseases. My goal was to provide resources, strategies, ideas for activities, and home safety to the families who are listening. Families feel lost and frustrated and my goal is to assist in any way I can. I offer shows that define various dementia’s such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Frontotemporal and Lewy Body and their symptoms, as well as presenting clinical physicians and researchers who can explain the diseases and their effects on the brain. I also provide various resources such as how to stay safe from scammers, assistance with driving issues, wandering, gun safety, alternative therapies and much more. The biggest thing I want families to understand is that they are not alone. I am here to support and encourage them in every way. I believe more education regarding various dementia’s is important so that we can see what the person with a diagnosis can still do, not just what they’ve lost. For the caregiver moving through their frustration and misunderstanding of symptoms, they see and their own involvement in creating reactions which are perceived as behaviors is empowering! This is where we create caregiver growth. I lovingly call my listeners my Caregivernation and Friends with Diagnosis. If you want to listen, my shows now air on podcasts in 40 states and 26 countries on Itunes, Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play and TuneIn.

For the past two years, I have been teaching family classes to the patients and their loved ones at the CU Anschutz, for the Palliative and Supportive Care – Movements and Memory Disorders Unit. I also helped the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to pass new Assisted Living and Memory Care regulations in April of 2018, which require nursing homes, home health and those who work with our friends with diagnosis to have training. My classes are accepted by CDPHE.

Has it been a smooth road?
I wish the road would have been smoother for my mom’s care. I was 25 when my mom was diagnosed and it was one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with. I wish I would’ve investigated a little bit further when my mom’s care was out of my scope of expertise. Asking questions and visiting communities who care for people with memory loss is important. Don’t make an appointment, just drop in to see what their care is truly like. Activities scheduled twice or three times a day is not as important as engagement pieces around the home. Choose a place if needed, that works with your loved one’s preferences such as bathing, eating, sleeping, and entertainment. Scheduled task-centered care can be a red flag for disaster.

No matter what your situation is, learn as much as you can about all the information surrounding your issue. Learn all aspects of the obstacle you are trying to overcome. We all make mistakes and we will continue to, but it’s what we do with what we’ve learned after the mistake that helps us grow. I learned so much about proper care for people with various dementias through the mistakes made with my mom’s care. Truth is I wouldn’t change it because I’m stronger, smarter, and more able to see what’s right in front of me, through the mistakes made during my journey. Believe in yourself, trust yourself, and forgive yourself if something has gone wrong. No one is perfect and we cannot hang on to anything we perceive as a failure. Just because you did something wrong in the past doesn’t mean you can’t advocate against it now. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite. You grew. Don’t let people use your past to invalidate your current mindset. This is growth, a great concept, so embrace it!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Summit Resilience Training – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Right now I believe I am the only radio show/podcast on the air that offers strategies and techniques, and communication skills for my caregivernation and friends with a diagnosis. In Denver, I believe I am the only person teaching family classes which include empathy training in the discussion of the lobes of the brain. I believe this is important for families so that they clearly understand what their loved one and friends are living with. One of the main areas of my classes is to teach my participants, that they control the emotional tone of every interaction with the person with memory loss. Most of my participants believe that they are seeing behaviors from their loved one. My goal is to change their mindset that most of the symptoms that they see are caused by their actions, and therefore a reaction. If I can help caregivers to understand that they create the “emotional temperature” of the situation, they will see less of the perceived behaviors.

I love working with my friends with diagnosis and their family members/caregivers. Sometimes, I feel like the dementia whisperer because after all these years it’s become a heart-to-heart synergy to understand their unmet needs and help them to be successful in communicating with each other. It gives me so much joy when families comment that they wish they had had this type of training years before and feel that they can now be successful when interacting with their loved one. My friends with diagnosis have a sense that they have been heard and understood and are on a trajectory to living their best life while living with the degenerative disease. I believe knowledge is power and enhancing our communications skills with a heavy dose of compassion, translates to excellent care. When we are self-enlightened and mindful of our actions, our care becomes intentional and more successful.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
Having dementia diseases in my family is sometimes emotionally and physically taxing. I practice retaining my brain through games and apps that encourage retention and complex reasoning such as Words with Friends, Solitaire, Word Stacks, Word Scape. I continue learning on a regular basis. I follow Fashion Blogs to provide fun for my stressful days. I like cooking shows and blogs which help guide my eating habits. I also eat a lot of fish, chicken, sushi, salads, fruits, and heart-healthy nutritional foods that keep me strong and my brain healthy. I exercise several times a week with circuit training at the gym, so I work in all areas of my body. I run on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike for my cardio workout. A Facebook group called Forever Fierce Revolution stimulates and inspires me to be my best self as I grow older.

Pricing:

  • Family Caregiver Classes 8 hours (2 -4 Hour sessions) is $200 per person
  • Professional Caregiver Classes are customized and start at $200+ per hour
  • In-Home Assessments $100 per hour with report (3-hour average time)
  • Lecture and Keynote addresses available price TBD

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Nadine Roberts Cornish

    April 30, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Love this article! And I love Jill!

    Love all the pics!

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