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Dementia Care Communication Strategies That Every Caregiver Needs to Know


Dementia Care Communication Strategies That Every Caregiver Needs to Know with Dr. Heather McKay


In 2003, Dr. Heather McKay had just begun working in occupational therapy when her beloved grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. The family’s challenge merged Heather’s work and personal life—inspiring her career and fueling a larger mission to improve life for people living with dementia and their myriad caregivers. Over a decade of caregiving, her family gathered knowledge of dementia, learned new skills, and adapted together through every stage of the disease—a collaborative and transformative experience that Heather credits for her success as much as any formal training. Through it all, Heather emerged as an international thought leader in dementia care and caregiver education and one of the industry’s most sought-after trainer/speakers.


As manager of Partnerships for Health, Heather provides training for professional and family caregivers and consultation with organizations on topics related to dementia care. In 2009, Heather collaborated with the National Association of State Veterans Homes and other Veterans’ associations to produce the caregiver training video series, Dementia Care for America’s Heroes. The film series received the national Caregiver Friendly Award and is available online at www.pfhnc.com. Heather is featured in other caregiver education produced by Stanford University, Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company, ComForCare, and At Your Side Home Care across the US and Canada. In 2016, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America named Heather “Dementia Care Professional of the Year” for her dedication and devotion to serving individuals living with dementia, their families, professionals, and her community. She’s also been awarded by her occupational therapy peers for “humanitarian values, knowledge, and visionary leadership.”


In her characteristically down-to-earth, fun and informative style (and signature southern Appalachian accent) Heather helps caregivers understand dementia’s impact on communication, why communication breakdowns happen, and how to improve our interactions with people living with the disease—making life better for everyone involved!


I learned so much from this conversation- it's a must listen for every family member and caregiver. Dr. Heather McKay's gift is teaching- and you will walk away with a better understanding of dementia, how our brains work and the ability to better communicate with our loved ones.

Dr. Heather McKay shares about:

  • Basic dementia-related knowledge—what every caregiver needs to know!

  • Specific brain changes affecting communication

  • Real-world stories of communication challenges that will resonate with you whether you are a professional, family caregiver, or someone living with dementia

  • Practical, ready-to-use communication strategies to make doing things together easier, social visits more enjoyable, and dealing with distress safer and more effective.

  • Valuable lessons learned from her practice and research with dementia caregivers nationwide.


For more information visit https://pfhnc.com/



Dr. Heather McKay is an occupational therapist, dementia care specialist, and international trainer/speaker. She provides training for professional and family caregivers and consultation with organizations on topics related to dementia care.


In 2007, she received the Marlys Mitchell Pioneer Award for humanitarian values, knowledge, and visionary leadership. In 2016, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America named Heather “Dementia Care Professional of the Year” for her dedication and devotion to serving individuals living with dementia, their families, professionals, and her community.


Heather is a graduate of the master’s occupational therapy program at UNC Chapel Hill. She received her PhD from Texas Woman’s University. In her research, Heather designed and tested a new educational program for interdisciplinary dementia care teams, which facilitates teams resolving real-world challenges collaboratively and will be useful in developing a more effective dementia care workforce. Her work is published in numerous textbooks and scientific journals.


As manager of Partnerships for Health, Heather is a recognized trainer of the Alzheimer’s Association, a member of Dementia Care Professionals of America, and PAC Certified Dementia Care Consultant. Among other partners nationwide, Heather collaborated with the National Association of State Veterans Homes and other Veterans’ associations to produce the caregiver training video series, Dementia Care for America’s Heroes. The film series received the national Caregiver Friendly Award and is available online for families and professionals. In fact, much of Heather’s work is shared in films, including projects produced by Stanford University, Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company, ComForCare, and At Your Side Home Care.


In addition to her work in dementia care education, Heather served for 10 years as the Director of Disease Management for a Hospice and Home Health agency in North Carolina. Heather has worked in hospital, home health, and community settings. She has personal as well as professional experience with dementia caregiving and welcomes the audience’s personal and professional perspectives.



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We are not medical professionals and are not providing any medical advice. If you have any medical questions, we recommend that you talk with a medical professional of your choice. willGather has taken care in selecting its speakers but the opinions of our speakers are theirs alone. Thank you for your continued interest in our podcasts.


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