Melanie Bunn says she will teach anyone about dementia. She is a dementia training specialist for Dementia Alliance in North Carolina and has taught groups across the country.
In March, her work led her to Salisbury, North Carolina where she spent the day with caregivers from Trinity at Home and the evening with the Rowan County Alzheimer’s Support Group that meets at Trinity Oaks.
“The right approaches can make things a lot better, and the wrong approaches can make things a lot worse,” Bunn said. “What it comes down to is, we need to know that people are doing the best they can. That person living with dementia is doing the best they can, and we are doing the best we can.”
Bunn received her undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, her master’s degree in family health nursing from Clemson University, and a post-master’s Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certificate from Duke University.
She is a skilled and experienced advanced practice nurse and nurse educator, conducting over 200 presentations and trainings annually for health professionals, community organizations, first responders, families, and other groups focused on the care and needs of people living with dementia and their families.
“It just became my passion,” Bunn said. “It’s really a calling. I really get them (people living with dementia), and they really get me.”
During her evening with the support group, which is facilitated by Trinity at Home Outreach Coordinator Teresa Dakins, Bunn talked to attendees about different approaches to moments that may arise with their loved one and used interactive role-play games to illustrate them.
She put the caregivers in the position of their loved ones with dementia and asked them to think about their point-of-view during interactions.
“I’m here to learn anything we can pick up that would be helpful on a day-to-day basis. We look for all the help we can get,” said Gordan Rutzen, who attends the support group to learn more about caring for his wife. “I’ve learned that you have to keep your cool, be nice, be pleasant. They can’t help it, so you have to understand that.”
The goal for the trainings comes down to one thing: being better.
“We can learn different things. We can practice different approaches. We can use different strategies,” Bunn said. “We can do better for them.”