Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven with the Senior Care Industry NetCast, where leaders with three or more years of experience share their advice. Let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Jessica Ackerman:

Hi, Valerie. My name is Jessica Ackerman (www.jessicaackerman.com) and I am a speech language pathologist. I am also a yoga and meditation teacher. I have 20 years of experience working with the older population, providing more than just speech, language, voice, and swallowing but also giving therapy to focus on the whole person. In the context of a full life, how to optimize quality of life. I’ve worked with individuals with severe strokes, brain injury, cancer, people with Parkinson’s, dementia, ALS. I have been a patient advocate and counseled families on managing transitions through stages of levels of care. And right now, I offer individual communication, swallowing, speech and voice therapy sessions. I also run a movement-based communication group called Speak Steady, and that’s the concept of matching modified yoga poses with speech and breath to maximize function. The results have been astounding for stroke, Parkinson’s patients.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Wow. It sounds like very focused, and I can imagine that when you combine yoga with breathing and speech, that focus on that center right there, helps people so much.

Jessica Ackerman:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s fabulous. This is the first time we’ve had someone on that does all these things, the yoga and the meditation and all of that, so that is really cool. Very nice. What is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Jessica Ackerman:

Well, the ability to communicate effectively, for anybody, has such a significant impact on the quality of a person’s life. So, as people age and they face different insults on their health, sometimes this ability is impaired. And so, I feel genuinely grateful that I can target specific goals leading to positive outcomes. I can make changes that allow people to communicate functionally and swallow effectively, eating and swallowing… I mean, eating and speaking, two really important things for anyone and to restore that ability in people is just so rewarding and fulfilling. I gain so much insight into people’s lives from working with World War II veterans, gaining so much experience, people who have been married 60 years. For me, I get fulfilled in hearing these stories about humans and what they’ve been through their lives, and people in the prime of their aging life have so wisdom to share.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, they really do. They have so much wisdom and they can teach us a lot about tough times and how to navigate, especially what we’re going through right now, how to navigate through all of that. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of wise folks out there who could teach us a thing or two about being tough. That’s really cool. And yeah, you’re right. I think it’s interesting that when we sit and just listen and, especially for you, you’re reteaching them how to talk and how to swallow and how to use their mouth correctly. What a joy it must be when someone actually can communicate with you again, who was having such a hard time before. That’s awesome. That would be a fabulous job to have.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I would imagine that in your career lifetime, that there have been people who have been mentors to you. There have been people who have… Or organizations that have really meant a lot to you where you thought, “Wow, that organization really does a great job. They really have a good mission or a good vision.” Who are those people you’d like to give a shout out to?

Jessica Ackerman:

In all truthfulness, the biggest influence and impact have been my own patients. They’ve been such an inspiration to me over the years, and I’ve been inspired by seeing some of the most devastating illnesses and impairments, and just the tenacity of humans to keep going every day. I’ve seen thousands of patients through my career and, really, those are the most inspiring.

Jessica Ackerman:

There are different organizations, the American Stroke Association, Heart Association, all of those, American Parkinson’s Association, they’re all doing great work to inspire other people to show up and do the therapy to rehabilitate themselves and to work with families to advocate for their loved ones. But truly, the inspiring part that holds such a place in my heart are the patients who just are faced with devastating things and keep on pushing on.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep, yep. That human element is pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Jessica Ackerman:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Whether you’re the person who is persevering or the caregiver of the person, our ability as humans to take care of each other and to the will to get better and to live a full life is pretty impressive. Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Let’s talk a little bit about online marketing. I ask everybody this. We’re in a time in our world where we are not as able to market to each other face to face. Networking events and things like that have kind of come to a standstill in most of our places across the United States. And so, online marketing has become a little bit more important or maybe a lot more important for folks. What has been your experience or thoughts about getting your message out there online?

Jessica Ackerman:

Oh, absolutely. Providing services online is truly the reality of our times. Healthcare needs to pivot and that pivot has become ever more critical in these times as we shift in this global pandemic. And so, really, it has brought the services online through telehealth and different platforms of delivery that I’ve utilized. I’ve really embraced and welcomed this pivot to ensure better access to the speech communication and yoga meditation outlet. There are so many people who are missing these types of services and don’t even really know that they exist. For me, being able to be online and it’s really refreshing to have these conversations with people and be able to provide access. And so, there’s really sometimes less hesitation for patients and people to show up to groups online. They’re kind of in the comfort of their own homes. They’re in a safe environment.

Jessica Ackerman:

There is actually a little more engagement in different groups that I run. I run, like I mentioned, a Parkinson’s and stroke group where we work on communication and yoga and everyone’s in their little box on our Zoom platform. But everyone is so engaged and connected, and it’s really an amazing feature that provides access to people from all over the country. And I can provide you with links to how people can learn more, if you’d like. I also have been able to publish a full course on a certain platform so people can use the course. And so, I really feel like technology is allowing for us to provide access to seniors and aging population that wouldn’t typically be able to access these certain things. And the technology isn’t as much of a barrier as some people would think. I think older adults are willing to embrace it and to enjoy the technology. It has been actually really fulfilling to see this pivot in healthcare.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I think you’re totally right about that. I think a lot of our seniors surprise us as their willingness to use Zoom and all these other things, FaceTime and anything else that we can think of. And I would agree that I think there are a lot of people who couldn’t leave their house to go to a support group before, either because they’re caring for someone who needs them there most of the time, or maybe they don’t drive anymore or whatever the case. Being able to join a group in the comfort of your own home and whatever setting you want to sit in, or your favorite chair, and you’re at your desk, that’s really kind of cool for people that they don’t have to go anywhere. I think that’s really neat.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And you’re on it, and for folks that want to know more about what you have to offer and anything that you’ve written or you want to share, we’ll put that with this video so that folks can download it or whatever they want to do. That’s pretty cool. All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Jessica Ackerman:

Oh, wow. I would say pretty basic, but something we don’t always think about, keep an open mind and keep viewing senior care as a way to optimize their quality of life. See every person as a full human being who has been through who knows what in their life, a long journey. And I think just keeping an open mind is really… A curious, open mind to anything that comes their way. That’s my advice.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. Yes. It’s not just them in this moment when you see them. It’s them through their whole life. Absolutely.

Jessica Ackerman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Last question is supposed to be a fun one. Some people love it. Some people don’t love it, but I always ask. When you have a win in life or business, and that could mean anything, that whatever a win is to you, a successful patient who’s recovering, a successful patient or whatever it is, how do you like to celebrate?

Jessica Ackerman:

Oh, celebrate. Okay. Well, my passion is the ocean and I live right at the ocean so I jump in the ocean. I’m a swimmer. And even in December, I will jump in and that’s how I would like to celebrate. It’s a reminder that I’m alive and that life is out there. That’s my celebration.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Yeah. You know what? We haven’t had that one. I always try to say, “Okay, somebody have something different.” That is a new one.

Jessica Ackerman:

All right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Jumping in the ocean is great. What an excellent way to celebrate. I’ve known in my lifetime, folks that’s part of their meditation and that’s part of their early morning day is to meditate and take a swim in the ocean, and that’s just part of how they start every single day of their life. That’s really cool. That’s neat. That would be fun. I don’t live near the ocean, so I’m the middle of the United States so I can’t do that. But that is a really cool experience to be able to have, so thank you for that. And thank you for your wisdom and for sharing with us what you do and how your business works. I think it’s fascinating and I think that, in terms of wellness, I don’t think we do enough with meditation and yoga. I know yoga is very popular but I really think more people would benefit from so many different things they didn’t even realize, if they would get involved in yoga and meditation. I really believe that. Thank you for your wisdom. I appreciate that.

Jessica Ackerman:

Absolutely. Thank you. And thank you to all of your audience for coming in and seeing us today. I appreciate that.