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 Kim Campbell Leads Alzheimer Event Focused on Caregivers

A love of wine and film sparked an idea in Van Dyk Health Care Chief Executive Officer Robert Van Dyk to bring a special guest to New Jersey recently for a town hall forum, “Alzheimer’s: The Caregiver’s Greatest Test.”

Aimed at caregivers, a vital if often overlooked part of the AD story, the event saw country music legend Glen Campbell’s widow and AD advocate Kim Campbell speak to more than 300 people in two separate talks.

In an interview with Provider, Van Dyk explains how his foray into wine-making in the Napa Valley resulted in this case of serendipity bringing Kim Campbell and her message to the forefront of a broader company reset on caregivers and caregiving.

“Three years ago, my wife and I were sponsors of the Napa Valley Film Festival. And, at the last night of the film festival one of the films shown was ‘I’ll Be Me,’ which was the life of Glen Campbell,” he says.

The documentary chronicles the country music legend’s brave and very public battle with AD, a disease that strikes home for Van Dyk not only as a long term and post-acute care provider, but as a son and grandson. “My father has it, and my grandmother died with it,” he says. “It is also a big part of what I do in our assisted living, our home care, and our day care communities.”

These links connecting Van Dyk to the disease and the movie’s attention to Kim Campbell and her care for her husband of 37 years is not a one-off coincidence, but instead represents a major shift for Van Dyk and his organization on how to approach AD.

“As my mom cared for my father, I started to see how really, really difficult it was on my mom. There is of course the person suffering from Alzheimer’s, but there are so many others around that person who suffer, primarily the caregiver,” Van Dyk says.

“Because of that I have now started a day care program for people with Alzheimer’s, and I kind of refocused my messaging and my attention a little bit. While I am still very much focused on providing medical care to people with Alzheimer’s, I moved [some of] my attention and messaging to the caregiver.”

Again, the Campbell film brought this sentiment to light, with Kim Campbell poignantly showing what she went through. “Her message when she came and spoke to our group was from that caregiver’s point of view,” Van Dyk says.

One of the things that Kim stresses is something Van Dyk is acting on throughout his company’s facilities. “She said when she was looking for someplace where Glen could be cared for because she could no longer do it at home, she kept hearing the words ‘placing Glen someplace’ or ‘putting Glen someplace,’” Van Dyk says. In the end, she chose to focus on the thought that Glen was “joining” a community.

“And, so we are now changing the lingo in our company that you are no longer placing or putting someone in a care setting, but instead they are joining a community because it is the community that matters,” he says. “This has really touched us and made a difference, and we are  using it in all of our buildings, whether it is skilled care or assisted care or home care or day care. We are thinking in terms of caregivers who are joining a community within one of our properties so that we can continue to care for the person they love.”

As part of his extended effort to fight AD, Van Dyk and his wife Elizabeth co-founded Van Dyk Family Wines to honor the old vines of society and raise money for Alzheimer’s and memory care nonprofits. Their inaugural wines, the 2010 Dignity (Cabernet Sauvignon) and the 2011 Respect (Chardonnay), were named in support of their motto of “Celebrating Our Elderly with Dignity and Respect.”

Van Dyk Health Care includes in its portfolio two nursing and post-acute care facilities in Ridgewood and Montclair, N.J., an assisted living community in Hawthorne, N.J., a home care company, and a memory day care center.

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