The Dementia R.A.W. Method: A Unique Way to Communicate with Persons Affected by Dementia [Interview] [Transcript]

TamiNeumann_CathyBraxton_TheDementiaRAWMethodGuests: Tami Neumann and Cathy Braxton
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Tami Neumann and Cathy Braxton of Silver Dawn Training Institute. Tami Neumann, Chief Operations Officer & Cathy Braxton, Chief Education Officer, have been in business over 2 years with a collective 40 years experience in long term care.

Segment overview: In this segment, Tami Neumann and Cathy Braxton of Silver Dawn Training Institute, discuss The Dementia R.A.W. Method, a new way of communicating with persons with dementia through the rules of improvisational comedy.

Health Professional Radio – Dementia

NealHoward: Hello and welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us today, I’m your host here on Health Professional Radio. Now when you’re caring for person who’s Alzheimer’s, dementia and many other brain conditions, it brings about a very unique set of challenges. Our guest today, Tami Nuemann and Cathy Braxton, both of Silver Dawn Training Institute. Now Tami Neumann is Chief Operations Officer and Cathy Braxton is Chief Education Officer, here to talk with us about a new way to communicate with those living with Dementia. Welcome to the program both Tami and Cathy, how are you today?

Tami Neumann: Thank you so much for having us.

N: Thank you both for talking with us today. Now this new approach to dealing with or caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, it’s something known as Dementia RAW. Talk about this new approach.

T: Sure. Actually it’s called “Dementia RAW”, we refer to it as ‘raw’ but each of those letters do stand for something so R means Real, A means Authentic and W means Wholehearted. What we did is we really kind of, Cathy and I collectively have over 40 years of experience within this industry. Of course, Cathy has more time than I because I’m just only like 26 years old (laughs)

N: Experience and age, they go together, yes.

T: There you go. We each all about 20 years in our pockets of time in this industry and we really looked at what was needed out there and what wasn’t being provided. We felt that we needed to simplify the way that we teach whether it’s professional caregivers or family caregivers. How to communicate in a new way with whether it’s their loved one or someone they’re caring for in a facility, because we wanted to be accessible because we’re still finding after all this time we can walk into communities and find that staff, really have no idea how they communicate effectively with the person with dementia and that with families as well. “Why do we need to make it so difficult?” Was kind of our biggest question.

Cathy Braxton: Exactly, right.

N: What do you think are some of the reasons that it has been so difficult? And how are some of these difficulties going to be alleviated by implementing Dementia RAW?

C: This is Cathy. I think one of the reasons that education and how to communicate with somebody with dementia has been so difficult thus far is that the information has out there is vast and wide and often times, it’s expressed and taught in a way that’s quite complicated. Where you need to outnumber a lot of steps or you need to rely on a very heavy manual. Also one of the things that’s pre-indicative of the long term care communities is that the professionals, the … health professionals that are looking at residence in community are writing up care plans but then the staff that have their hands in the work, they’re really down and dirty and getting dirty in a work with the actual residents don’t have access to that information. We found out that with that, mixed with the fact that we did some, we did a pilot program in a city called Blue Island Illinois and we put fire police, medic, and the building department and found out that these first responders (a) had actually no training in elder or older adult issues or dementia care at all, but they were out on a street addressing issues and handling issues they’re running into every day. And secondly, they had no access to information once they got sent out on a call in an emergency. They had no ability to really call back to dispatching, and get a decent history, and therefore had nothing to go on. We felt very strongly that there needs to be a method in place that’s easy to access, easy to remember, tools can literally be in your back pocket, whether they’re on your phone that you can flip to and see something that reminds you of how to handle somebody. But quite honestly, the way in which we train are 8 basic issues that meld together so beautifully that it’s almost impossible to forget them.

N: The folks that you’re training in this new method of caring for Alzheimer’s patients, how receptive are they? Are they proving to change?

C: It has been phenomenal. It has been like eye opening. I think one of the great things that we see when do trainings is we are constantly looking at to the audience, whether it’s 8 people in a small intimate setting or 300 people in a large conference room. One of the things that we’ve noticed that we really gauge if we’re doing the right thing is how many people are on their phones when we’re talking. (laugh) We don’t see people on their phones, we actually see them making eye contact with us, nodding their heads up and down, we see their eyes getting bigger, we see them raising their hands. This is phenomenal staff with all of the participation we’ve been getting thus far. With all the reviews we get and insight, we get feedback after the fact, it has been nothing but positive. People saying ‘Thank God, you’ve made this simple enough that I can understand it and it makes so much sense because I was complicating things when I didn’t need to.’

N: Dementia RAW, does it offset some of the cost of it based on better care, based on better understanding, and better handling of those living with Alzheimer’s?

T: What we’re seeing is that, like I said we’ve both been in this industry for a really long time and burn out and turn over happen very, very often and very quickly. One of the things that we talk about within Dementia RAW is something we talked about for improbable. One of those improbables in particular is called, make you partner look good. And one of the things that we really stressed when we talked about this RAW not only the biggest part is that we need to make the person with dementia look good. But the other person in this concept that we need to make look good is our co-workers. Unfortunately, within our industry sometimes that is not something that is looked at. We look at how we can make each other look good because what that ultimately does is makes the person with dementia look good. Which then reduces that turn over, so for example, when I was working in a memory care community, this was prior to about 7 years ago. There was a resident there that he didn’t like me. I don’t know if I reminded him of his ex-wife, a girl that wronged him, I don’t know what it was, but he didn’t like me. There was no way, nothing that I was able to do or was I able to work with him. That’s the unfortunate reality, sometimes when we work with people with dementia and any type of dementia. So we really work with this team and figured out how they could make me look good, which meant keeping me out of sight of this gentleman. But there were other caregivers that were spectacular at it. Then on the flipside of that, there were people that they may not be able to work with, but I was able to work well. We really worked at how can we balances and how can we make each other look good? And really looking at how we can create a culture that shift in culture when in whether the nursing home, assisted living memory care that really is helping each other to be supportive. There is no shame if you have to tap out today, because you’re not able to work with Mr. Smith, I’m going to step in, I’m going to look good, and you’re going to look good because we haven’t escalated Mr. Smith. Because we know when we escalate Mr. Smith, all sorts of … things happen. He’s discharged, he’s discharged to general psyche, he’s out of facility for a few days, now we put them on some great meds, we don’t know how there are going defect him and then we may bring him back, he may not, and he may go on to a different situation.

N: A vicious cycle.

crosstalk). Yes, absolutely. What we’re seeing by one looking how we can change the culture between caregivers and looking at how we can create a different change that culture also in how we can give care. That is going to ultimately build confidence with everyone and ultimately work at reducing turnover.

N: This question is for either of you. Have you noticed a reduction in medication based on implementing Dementia RAW? Based on the reaction of the patients themselves, sometimes patients are in and out, they have good days and bad days. But when they’re more lucid, do they realize that their care is a little bit more personal, a little bit more empathy is involved?

C: Great, exactly. We actually are working on collecting that data right now. It’s a long process to collect that data especially when we need to have everyone in a facility on-board. That’s one of the issues is making sure that this training is touched by every person in the community that they’re working in, and everyone is using the same technique. Otherwise, there’s really is no continuity of care. The other thing is that we do talk, in industry we used to the terms person-centered care, but it’s not necessarily implemented properly and so that’s what our training really tries to focus on, is that person-centered care, we do need to focus on not only the person that’s moving into the facility or living there but also the people that are working there. With that being said, the other thing that comes into finding out if staff turnover, reduction of medications, all of those things are actually, we’re starting to see a reduction in all of that. There’s a key in having this method to be understood and implemented and modeled from the top, down. It is imperative that administrators, directors of nursing, all of these types of players within the community are taking this training, and understanding this language, and utilizing it, and modeling it. Because if we only have a CNA or maybe one social worker in a facility with this information, there can’t be a continuity of care. We really are going to see good effective results or data regarding drug reduction. That’s our strive right now, is to get entire communities enrolled in this training and have it modeled from the top down because when an administrator can show a CNA that they’re overwhelmed and they need to tap out and they bring CNA in as the hero, that is going to speak volumes to families that are passing by, to residents who are right now are essentially making look great, and to a CNA who might have been considering leaving that facility to go work somewhere else. Now they know they’re supported in where they work so we’re going to start to see that, but again it’s going to be the buy-in for a whole community.

N: Where can our listeners go online and get more information about Silver Dawn Training Institute and Dementia RAW in general?

T: Absolutely. So the best way to find out that information is to go There you’ll be able to find information about where we’re holding some of our next trainings. You’ll find some links to information about our Certified Dementia Communication Specialist Training, and also find some information about our dementia perception challenges as well.

N: Well I thank you both for coming in today, Tami Neumann and Cathy Braxton of Silver Dawn Training Institute. Tami is with us today as Chief Operations Officer while Cathy Braxton is Chief Education Officer, both of which have been talking with us about a brand new way to help Alzheimer’s patients and others who are suffering with different types of dementia, it’s known as Dementia RAW. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at You can listen in on SoundCloud and also subscribes to this podcast on iTunes. Thank you both for coming in today.

C: Thank you.

T: Thank you.

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