It’s right there in Beverly Patnaik’s title.
Patnaik is the director of staff training and community education at Nashville-based Abe’s Garden, so it’s no surprise that she is helping her community build a video series that educates caregivers and family members on dementia care.
What is surprising is the considerable funding Abe’s Garden has received for these videos, as well as the high-profile figures appearing in and working on the videos, which are racking up views, helping the community raise its profile and furthering its mission of improving memory care standards.
With a team that includes a longtime producer of the television show “Hee Haw” and the widow of country music star Glen Campbell, Abe’s Garden has released 16 dementia care videos since June, all focused on educating viewers with practical advice on topics such as bathing, communicating and mouth care.
“Our initial reasons for doing the videos goes along with Abe’s Garden’s commitment to share what we learn with other people,” Patnaik told Senior Housing News. “We have a small facility. It’s only 42 beds. So we knew from the outset that we didn’t want to just do the best for those 42 and not share it.”
Filling a video vacuum
The impetus for the video program at Abe’s Garden was simple: Patnaik and others saw a void. The video landscape for dementia lacked practical, how-to instructional clips. To determine the most needed topics, Abe’s Garden conducted a survey at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting & EXPO both last year and this year. The survey asked respondents to vote on the areas they wanted Abe’s Garden to teach in videos.
In 2016, the leading vote-getters were:
* Research and Continuous Quality Improvement (10 votes)
* Evidence-Based Design (7 votes)
* Connection to Nature; The Club Day and Evening program; Furnished Living (6 votes each)
With funding provided entirely through grants, pro-bono work, and charitable donations — including, most significantly, a $100,000 grant from Serving Tennessee’s Seniors — Abe’s Garden hired LBK Entertainment to plan, shoot, and edit the videos. Leading the efforts was Carl Kornmeyer, who worked in various capacities on the television show “Hee Haw” for 23 years in both its original run and rerun era.
The production team then handed the final edits to Made In Network, a Nashville-based company that tailors videos to YouTube by adjusting both length and titles. As a result of cost savings and various charitable contributions, Abe’s Garden is able to produce six videos for the price of four, at a cost of $6,703 per video.
In June, Abe’s Garden released three videos focused on answering frequently asked questions about communicating, bathing and mouth care. Each video now is near or above 10,000 views. Abe’s Garden has released 13 more videos since then, including extended versions of some of their original videos.
“We want videos that people can watch and re-watch,” Patnaik said. “When they need to deal with a topic, (the videos) are available for them and will help walk them through things that they might not have thought about.”
When Kim Campbell needed advice on bathing her spouse, she turned to YouTube.
“I scoured the internet looking for tips on how to bathe someone who is combative, or how to dress someone who is combative,” said Campbell, whose late husband, country music’s Glen Campbell — best known for his hit “Rhinestone Cowboy” — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.
Glen was one of Abe’s Garden first three residents when it opened in September of 2015, and he resided there until his death last August. He’d spent time in another community before that, along with time at home, but neither experience gave Kim Campbell the multi-faceted support that she found at Abe’s Garden. The community has translated those family experiences into its video instruction.
“These videos are so soothing and encouraging to caregivers,” said Campbell, who has participated in seven of them, providing on-screen testimonials. “They’re filled with facts and information and real life examples where they actually show you them helping someone for real, not just acting it out.”
While Campbell found strong videos elsewhere, she views the realism in the Abe’s Garden videos — filmed on location, without actors or sets — as a major draw for family members at the start of the Alzheimer’s journey, especially those who have never heard of memory care.
“To see caregivers (on video) who are well trained interacting with residents who have dementia in a loving, compassionate way is very encouraging,” she said. “So many (home) caregivers won’t even explore longterm care because, I think, it would be admitting that they are a failure, or they feel too guilty, thinking, ‘I could never do that to my loved one.’ What they are not realizing is that it could actually be the very best thing for their loved one.”
Campbell is one of three participants in the videos with celebratory connections. Like Campbell, Grammy-winning country and Christian music star Amy Grant had personal ties to dementia — both of her parents had it. Grant appears in one video about dealing with reactive behavior from Alzheimer’s patients.
Filmmaker and producer Carl Kornmeyer of “Hee Haw” fame came on board to work on the videos due to his personal and professional relationships with both Glen and Grant, as well as his friendship with musician Kris Kristofferson, who was mistakenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while Kornmeyer was working with him on a film project.
Patnaik credits Abe’s Garden’s Director of Marketing & Development Beth Zeitlin for the idea of pursuing well-known names, and while Abe’s Garden’s videos aren’t successful strictly because of name recognition, the participation of Campbell, Grant, and Kornmeyer provide another entry point for viewers.
For Campbell, the videos accurately convey the experience she had working with Abe’s Garden.
“I never say, ‘I put Glen in a community’ or ‘a home’ or ‘a nursing home,’” Campbell said. “I say, ‘Our family joined a memory care community.’ It’s my community too. Alzheimer’s affects the entire family. I didn’t cease being a caregiver when we joined the community, but my team got bigger, and now included professionals with 24-7 care. … It helped me go back to his role as his wife.”
The next wave of videos
The educational component of Abe’s Garden’s video mission has been a success. The community has partnered with a Nashville elementary school to create student volunteering opportunities at Abe’s Garden, using the videos to train students. Family Caregivers Center of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association are using the video to train staff.
The community is also exploring revenue-generating options through Google Ads, though that has yielded just $18 over three months on the strength of more than 51,000 views. These views break into two groups. As of Monday, ten videos have fewer than 200 views, while the other seven range from 2,000 to more than 10,000.
From a marketing perspective, that’s a lot of people exposed to the Abe’s Garden name who now have a glimpse into the community at work.
Videos currently in post-production include one on exercise, one on issues around end-of-life decisions and one on talking to kids about Alzheimer’s. Though it has not yet done so, the community anticipates using view counts to dictate content choices, along with the surveys. Topics under consideration include caregiver stress and stress reduction, and sexuality and intimacy for people with dementia.
“I’ve been in this business a long time as a gerontologist, and the issues facing older adults and their families are not widely appreciated,” Patnaik said. “So to shine a light on the fact that six million people have Alzheimer’s, and here are some practical things you can do to help that situation be smoother and more joyous makes me feel like I’m contributing to the body of knowledge.”
Written by Jack Silverstein