Eight New Ecumen Awakenings Trainers Certified
Date: Dec 16th, 2015 3:53pm


Ben Taylor

Eight Ecumen employees have been certified as Ecumen Awakenings facilitators with qualifications to train other employees in the Awakenings approach to dementia care.

Ecumen Awakenings is an integrated, holistic approach to care that emphasizes managing Alzheimer’s and related dementias without highly sedating drugs and improving residents’ quality of life. Residents, their families, doctors and care staff all work together to replace traditional drug therapies with proven individualized techniques that reduce anxiety and difficult behaviors. Awakenings also focuses on changing how staff react to the behaviors of dementia rather than trying to change the behavior of the person with dementia.

Awakenings was initially developed in 2009 by Ecumen employees concerned about the high sedation rates among elderly residents in nursing homes.  The program has since been rolled out to all Ecumen nursing homes and 14 assisted living communities.  Plans call for taking it to all 33 Ecumen assisted living communities and integrating it into home care.

Expansion plans sparked the need for more qualified trainers, according to Ecumen Awakenings Project Director Maria Reyes, RN, who has been the primary trainer during the rollout of Awakenings over the past five years.

“Anybody can read a PowerPoint script,” Reyes said. “Training people in Awakenings requires facilitators to impart their knowledge and judgment from real-life situations in the classroom. And Awakenings requires staff to question some of the most basic assumptions of traditional eldercare.”

To qualify for the in-depth trainer facilitation course, applicants must have at least two years of previous experience in a community using the Awakenings approach.  They also had to write an essay on why they believe in the program and want to be a facilitator. 

“I was amazed at what the applicants have seen and done in real-life situations,” Reyes said. “There were so many really beautiful personal stories with so many layers and so much commitment. Part of their training is to harness this passion they have and give them the confidence to lead by example.”  

The newly certified Ecumen Awakenings training facilitators are:

  • Janet Babcock, Recreation Services Coordinator, Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood
  • Susan Bachleitner, RN Home Care Manager, Ecumen Detroit Lakes
  • Michelle Caspers, Sales and Marketing Assistance, Ecumen Seasons at Apple Valley
  • Amber Hernandez, Recreation Services Coordinator, Ecumen Seasons at Apple Valley
  • MacKenzie Kaveny, RN, Ecumen Pathstone Living, Mankato
  • Kristina Hope Raburn, LPN, Ecumen North Branch
  • Katie Say, Recreation Services Coordinator, Ecumen Seasons at Apple Valley
  • Amanda Schmidt, Recreation Services Coordinator, Ecumen Oaks & Pines, Hutchinson

“This was a proud moment for me,” Reyes said following the certificate graduation ceremony.



On December 4, 2015, Ecumen Awakenings was awarded the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services Commissioner's 2016 Circle of Excellence Award.  It also has received these awards: National Excellence in Dementia Care Award from LeadingAge 2014, LeadingAge Minnesota's Leading Change Innovation Award (2013) and Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Eureka! Award (2015) for innovation.


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