Staff Member Spotlight: Minerva Santiago, AlmaVia of Camarillo

A dedicated caregiver to seniors with memory loss.

Caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss involves more than giving medications and making sure they have assistance getting to meals. True care requires a personal touch to unleash their creativity and bring them joy.

Resident Care Assistant Minerva Santiago, known as Mini, engages residents in Mexican bingo, Spanish classes and more to bring out their unique abilities—and boost the fun level at AlmaVia of Camarillo’s BridgeHaven memory care center.

Q: What types of daily activities are you involved in with memory care residents?

A: I escort residents to the beauty salon and doctor’s appointments. Twice a day, we listen to music they enjoy and do a variety of exercises to keep them physically active. Sometimes we’ll play a game of dominoes or I might pamper them a little, fixing their nails or massaging their hands. For those who need more extensive care, I feed them and help with other personal needs.

Q: How do you engage seniors with memory loss through your Spanish class?

A: I teach Spanish class every Saturday. When I start my class, I show the residents a simple dress. I ask them, “What is ‘dress’ in Spanish?” They respond, “It’s ‘vestido.’” The residents repeat everything. I say in Spanish “coffee cup” and I bring my coffee cup from my house because I have everything from Mexico—cups, dishes and real Mexican dresses with a lot of flowers. I show them pictures of my country, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. We often play Mexican bingo. It’s called “lotería.” Bingo here in the United States is only numbers. In Mexico we have pictures. They love it. I play three times and they never get tired. I say, “Again?” and they say, “Again, again!” That’s why my class is an hour—sometimes more—but the residents enjoy it.

Q: What are some other ways residents participate in class?

A: When I start my classes in the morning, I say “buenos días” and everybody says “buenos días.” I ask, “You know what is ‘buenos días’ in English?” I say, “It’s good morning” and they say, “Oh, yes—I remember.” That is fun because the residents like it; it’s become an important part of memory care. They remember what we talked about in the last Spanish class and they’re quick to remind me. I have a lot of compassion for these residents, and a lot of patience.

Q: What do you like about working at AlmaVia of Camarillo?

A: There are many things I like at AlmaVia. Number one: There’s communication. Everybody’s working in good teams and the residents are happy. It’s a family house here at AlmaVia. I like my coworkers. I love everybody. You go inside the room and families are friendly and smiling. Everybody respects each other.

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