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How Pegasus Optimizes Dementia Care with Dr. Sandra Petersen

At the forefront of Pegasus Senior Living, Dr. Sandra Petersen, our Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness, leads our Connections program, a transformative and scientifically backed approach to care designed for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Through the “Connect, Move, Learn” methodology that defines the Connections program, Dr. Petersen guides Pegasus on how to provide optimal care for our residents.

Dr. Sandra Petersen: A Leader in Dementia Care

Dr. Sandra Petersen, an expert in dementia care and Pegasus Senior Living’s Vice President (VP) of Health and Wellness

Renowned for her expertise in dementia care, Dr. Petersen holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Rush College in Chicago, Illinois. With three residencies and certifications in family practice, geriatric medicine, and psychiatric-mental health, she became a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2016. Dr. Petersen’s impact on the nation’s healthcare extends to her role as a practitioner, a professor at The University of Texas at Tyler, and the Senior VP of Health and Wellness at Pegasus; she is also a respected author and speaker.

Neuroplasticity in Action: "Create More Life"

Pegasus Senior Living’s approach to care is rooted in the scientific principle of neuroplasticity, which is the idea that the brain can adapt and strengthen through mental exercise, even in later stages of life. Dr. Sandra Petersen incorporates neuroplasticity into our care practices through “Connect, Move, Learn” activities. These are daily activities for residents, aligning with the organization’s goal to “create more life” for residents who are experiencing cognitive impairments. Think “C.M.L” to remember “Connect, Move, Learn” and “Create More Life!”

Connect: Fostering Emotional Bonds

The “Connect” part of “Connect, Move, Learn” signifies the “Connect” activities that prioritize emotional bonds. Pegasus fosters an environment where social connections thrive, which is especially important for residents with dementia. For instance, caregivers lead activities encouraging residents to share thoughts on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hannukah, tapping into associated positive emotions. Ensuring socialization and recalling memories associated with positive emotions are scientifically proven to help people with dementia.

Pegasus Senior Living | Residents celebrating Christmas
Connecting with others is scientifically proven to improve mental well-being.

Move: Enhancing Well-being Through Purposeful Movement

The “Move” component emphasizes purposeful physical activities, promoting physical health and stimulating neural growth. Scientifically endorsed methods, such as having residents stretch their arms to the beat of music, aid in rebuilding neural pathways in people with dementia.

Pegasus Senior Living | Senior resident plays with a ball
Movement and physical exercise are important for brain health and thus integrated into the daily schedule at Pegasus Senior Living communities. (The resident pictured recently turned 105!)

Learn: Unlocking Cognitive Potential

“Learn” activities encourage cognitive growth through tailored mental exercises. Rooted in a person-centered approach and supported by scientific research, these activities aim to unlock hidden potentials, providing residents with programs that rebuild and retrain the brain. For instance, caregivers may lead an art therapy class, help a resident with a puzzle, or encourage a group of residents to take turns reading aloud from a book.

Pegasus Senior Living | Residents making arts and crafts
Learning activities, such as art lessons, are important for brain health.

Connections Academy: In-Person Dementia Care Training

To ensure the effective implementation of the Connections program at our communities, we instituted the Connections Academy—a comprehensive three-day dementia training event for caregivers held in Dallas, Texas. Caregivers from Pegasus Senior Living communities around the country fly into Dallas to learn how to best care for residents with cognitive impairments. 

The Connections Academy features interactive exercises, role-playing sessions, speeches by Dr. Petersen and other dementia experts, and discussions on seamlessly integrating these activities into the daily schedule. The academy also includes the Dementia Live® experience—an immersive simulation providing staff with firsthand insights into how disorienting it can be living with dementia.

Pegasus Senior Living | Team members training at Dementia Live
The Dementia Live® experience helps staff gain an understanding of what it feels like to live with dementia.

At the end of the Connections Academy training, each participant is awarded a certificate and a pin. This tangible acknowledgment serves as a symbol of attaining certification in dementia training and their commitment to providing optimal care.

Pegasus Senior Living | Team members receiving their Connections Academy training certificate
Each employee who completes the Connections Academy receives a certificate and pin to acknowledge their commitment to the “Connect, Move, Learn” methodology.

Contact Pegasus’ Memory Care Experts Today

If your family could benefit from a warm and supportive environment backed by the expertise of Dr. Petersen’s Connections program, contact one of our senior living experts today or search for the Pegasus community  closest to you.

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