Therapist helps seniors improve memory skills

Therapist helps seniors improve memory skills

Charnisa Wright

A mother of four with expert knowledge in memory retention is breaking ground with new ways to aid the elderly afflicted with dementia.

“Using a positive approach helps achieve awareness, even uncover unrealized skills,” said Charnisa Wright who heads the Memory Support Team at the East Ridge at Cutler Bay retirement community.

Under her direction, the community has inaugurated the innovative “Teepa Snow” program based on a philosophy, as she explains, “to meet people where they are.”

A clinical specialist in geriatrics for a Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Snow is a therapist and restorative care coordinator for long-term care facilities. She currently has clinical appointments with Duke University’s School of Nursing and UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine.

East Ridge recently embraced the nationally known Teepa Snow program to implement at Three Palms under the direction of Wright.

Essentially, care strategies and techniques are defined in six different areas called “Gems” that are integrated with what is known about a person’s brain function and changes that occur with dementia conditions, explained Wright, who works closely with families of memory care residents at the recently opened Three Palms Health Center.

In addition, Wright directs staff in use of the Montessori Method that seeks first to engage an individual’s senses to help them rediscover the world around them with physical activities, art and music using therapies to rekindle memories.

The Montessori approach is used to re-engage types of memory that are spared by dementia, including motor memory such as how to dress or eat.

Even in its first weeks, the restorative programs are uncovering new beginnings for many.

“One son saw his father sit with other residents and was water painting with the group, something the son thought impossible, having been inattentive before coming to Three Palms,” reflected Wright who, with her husband, Garland, both began service as Correction Officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Later with her degree in Elementary Education from Barry University (2008), Wright began teaching second through fifth grades before taking another turn in her multiple careers by attending and graduating from Fortis College in Cutler Bay with a degree in Nursing.

All during these formative career years, Wright still found time to raise the couple’s four children, including Charisma, 19, a nursing student; Melvin, 16, student at MacArthur Senior High in Broward County; Garland, 12, and Aaliyah, 8, both attending Rainbow Academy in Homestead. The family lives in the Redland area, recently joined by Wright’s mother and stepfather, formerly residing in Georgia.

“I realized that working and helping people to better themselves was what I wanted from life,” said Wright, who has set her mind toward improving the lives of the aging with diminished cognition.

“I enjoy teaching and helping our team work with each resident. We’re very hands on and have learned to take each day as it comes with those who need a little help to enjoy their day.”


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