Cassie Cook is passionate about serving older adults with dementia. As the Woodland Hill Life Enrichment Director, Cassie recently represented Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) in Washington D.C. at the National Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum. An article was shared in the New Richmond News about Cassie and her work, along with 1,200 other people at the forum, who met to advocate at the federal level for ways to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
So, why is Cassie so passionate? We’ll let her tell you in her own words.
“I do what I do because of my grandparents. I can think back to all the major events in my life and I remember my grandparents always being there. They inspired me to do what I do, and I live through them and live out their legacy in my work as a Life Enrichment Director.
Every Monday during the summer of my internship before graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I spent time with my grandma who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I wanted to provide her with great programming while also providing respite for my Grandpa, who was her main caregiver at the time. Some of the activities my Grandma and I enjoyed were: singing songs from “The Sound of Music,” word searches, looking at scrapbook memories from our days at the family cabin, taking walks, and going out to dinner at the local pizza restaurant.
My Grandma and I would reminisce about the good old days and anytime I could make her smile, laugh, or say “I love you,” it made my day. That fall, we moved my Grandma into an Assisted Living where she spent the last years of her life. I continued to visit her weekly and vividly remember the last days of her life, where I sat bedside before she passed away. We played her favorite “Sound of Music” and spiritual songs until her last breath.
She was always there for me growing up, so I wanted to continue being there for her while she lived with Alzheimer’s disease. I would always tell my Grandma about the good things I was doing for other older adults and I knew she was proud, even though she couldn’t tell me. She was the reason I became a Life Enrichment Director and will continue to serve older adults at Woodland Hill.
I strive to create smiles in the eyes of the people I serve every day. When you’re in an activity with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, every day brings something different. The best part about it is that you’re creating smiles and making a difference in the lives of people who might not have had the opportunity to take part in an activity unless someone put forth the effort to engage them. I’ve seen activities spark joy and bring residents back to who they were. If I can make one person smile, then it makes my day.
Both of my Grandparents passed away last year, just six months apart. I now live out their legacy through my work at PHS as well as my advocacy work for the Alzheimer’s Association. I can remember the last words my Grandpa said to me: “Don’t stop fighting for this disease, because I never stopped fighting for your Grandma. I love you and know you will continue to do great things.
That is ‘My Why.’”