Dr. Betts is a Clinical Professor in the Educational Leadership & Management and Higher Education Leadership programs in the School of Education at Drexel University. Her father is a resident at a Maplewood community in Newtown, CT. After eight strokes, cancer, radiation, and open-heart surgery, Dr. Betts used her own studies, looking at mind, brain, and education science to educate and inspire her father with the concept of neuroplasticity and the ability to change the brain.
Neuroplasticity is defined as the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. The four-week brain health series was inspired by Dr. Betts father and his enthusiasm to share his daughters work with his friends and staff at Maplewood. The series started out as a six week, in person series, and Dr. Betts just expected her father and his friends to show up, but was pleasantly surprised when over 70 residents, their families, and staff showed up to learn about the science and art of changing the brain.
Dr. Betts said, “They became so excited and well versed about brain health. The residents loved the idea that they had the power to change their brains. They developed an understanding that you can change your brain over a lifetime, even when there is trauma, there is still such importance in having a growth mindset, rehab is something they should embrace.”
After such success in person, and in the wake of COVID-19, Dr. Betts and Maplewood created a four-week online series to offer in their MA, CT, and OH communities. Dr. Betts’s curriculum also trained the employees so they could use it to help their residents. The staff went through a more rigorous and in-depth training to immerse themselves in the content so they can better contribute to the care and education of their residents. “The staff and facilitators love it,” comments Dr. Betts, “they think it is empowering to the residents and the family members.”
Each week of the series will focus on various key topics relating to brain function and health with tools to maintain cognitive abilities. Drexel University shares their latest research and studies to provide up to date and relevant information to combat cognitive deterioration. Maplewood is proud to partner with Drexel and provide resources and education to their community as well as others.
Laurie Lofgren, Executive Director at Maplewood at Newtown, believes that “knowledge is power,” she says, “the knowledge that you can continue to preserve, maintain, and improve cognition, regardless of what stage you are in your life, through continuing to exercise their brain and retain that cognition is extremely powerful. It is never too late to continue to learn.”
Dr. Betts and Lofgren have both seen the series bring awareness to the brain, as well as provide information and tools to residents, families, and staff. Dr. Betts has been blown away by the residents responses and their eagerness to take control of their brain health and make efforts to improve every day. “The knowledge they walk away with encourages them make better decisions for themselves that help their brain health. It has been life changing for her as an educator.” Dr. Betts remarks.
Dr. Betts will continue to insert additional programs throughout the year, especially around the holidays to combat any depression and isolation that may occur, focusing on mindfulness. Lofgren says, “we are always looking for new innovation, technology, and programs that we can offer to our residents, staff, and the larger community.” This partnership is part of the latest addition of a suite of programming and engagement to keep residents cognitively engaged.