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August 13, 2019

Many of the innovations being developed at Baycrest are brought forth by staff who use their personal and professional experiences to turn an obstacle into a solution. Ben Hartung is an outstanding example of this process. When he graduated with his master’s degree in nursing to pursue a career in geriatric care at Baycrest, he had already gained experience caring for individual living with dementia – his own grandfather.

He also noticed that many of his peers, many of whom were new to geriatrics, were having a difficult time adjusting to the emotional burden of dealing with a patient who was suffering from dementia. “As a new nurse, you’re faced with the reality of a patient pacing the halls, yelling, looking for their loved ones,” Ben said. The psychological toll of this experience would cause many of his peers to pursue a different field in nursing.

Ben decided to look at the literature for best-practices regarding dementia communication and collaborated with Calen Freeman, Professional Practice Chief of Nursing, and Lisa Sokoloff, Manager of Training & Simulation for Centre for Education. Ben and Calen compiled and documented these communication strategies and developed a workshop entitled ‘Responding to Responsive Behaviours (R2RB): A caregivers’ guide to person-centered communication.’
This communications workshop is geared towards nursing students to help them prepare for the realities of working with a dementia population. The workshop helps guide attendees through four main steps they can take to de-escalate a situation in which a patient with dementia is exhibiting responsive behaviours.

“This is an excellent example of innovative, outside-of-the-box thinking,” Ran Manor, Director of BIO, said. “Our team is looking forward to supporting them as they scale and disseminate their workshop at Baycrest and beyond.”

Ben Hartung is currently offering these workshops in-person. For more information, Ben Hartung can be reached at

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