Dementia care team from Trinity Oaks headed to Bethlehem

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2022

By Susan Shinn Turner

For The Salisbury Post


A team from Trinity Oaks Retirement Community leaves Friday for four days of dementia care training for medical professionals and family caregivers in Bethlehem.


The team will be in Bethlehem March 12-19. Michael Connor, a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church who has traveled to the Holy Land since 2012 in various capacities, serves as project manager.


St. John’s has a longterm partnership with Christmas Lutheran Church. The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, who retired as pastor from that congregation, also founded Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, where the training will take place.


In fact, Raeda Mansour, a registered nurse and the university’s intergenerational programs manager, reached out to Connor several years ago about providing this much needed training. Covid delayed the training until this year.


While there are nursing homes in the Holy Land, none offer dementia care. Families must care for their loved ones at home, and there is a great stigma around people who have dementia, according to Connor.


“Raeda approached me and said, ‘We need this. Can you arrange something?’” Connor said. “I got in touch with Bill Johnson, a member of St. John’s and the executive director of Trinity Oaks, and we had some conversations.”


Deana Burris, Trinity Oaks’ director of life enrichment and a certified dementia care specialist, came on the team early on, Connor said. Deb Tillman, a social worker with Trinity Oaks Health & Rehab and a certified dementia care specialist, joined the team about a year ago.


The curriculum will be presented over two days for medical professionals, and then will repeat for family caregivers.


“We think this program can be replicated,” Connor said.


This will be Burris’ first trip to the Holy Land.


“I want the language barrier to be removed so that they can go forth and train hundreds of people to get that information out there,” she said. “I’ve worked with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients my whole career. You have to know how to help someone who has cognitive difficulties.”


Burris helped care for her mother-in-law, who had dementia, for 1 1/2 years.


“That gave me compassion and a passion to help caregivers care for family members,” she said.


Burris said it is not good for the caregiver or the family member with dementia to be kept at home.


“The stigma there is that it is not viewed as a true disease,” she said. “People with dementia and Alzheimer’s are no different from someone who has cancer. It’s a true, progressive disease.”


Watch for frequent updates from the team on the St. John’s web site,


Susan Shinn Turner is staff writer for St. John’s Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Jim, are accompanying the team to provide communications support.