“My goal is to create environments where everyone can flourish.”
Jennifer Brush is redesigning dementia care with her “From Can’t to Can Do” philosophy.
I’m Jennifer Brush, and I’m on a mission to redesign dementia care. Whether I’m assisting a family in-home as they transition through a new diagnosis or leading a live training for a long-term care community, my work centers on one thing and one thing only—focusing on what individuals with dementia CAN do.
Passion for the person
As dementia care providers, we need to remember that older adults still want to be heard, just as we do. I focus on bringing back our attention to the people we’re serving and enriching their lives with the care we provide.
Innovative environmental design
Did you know there are easy to implement changes that any care partner can make to the environment to enrich the lives of individuals with dementia? Simple changes like adding contrast, colors and textures can make a world of difference in the way someone functions.
I have served as the Principal Investigator or Project Manager on MANY research grants. My work is informed and influenced by advanced research in the area of cognition and the physical environment. Each and every strategy and solution I teach is hand selected because it represents proven practices that afford the best transformation possible.
Staying focused on the solutions
My clients agree that I am full of ideas that make things better, both for staff and elders alike. I am best known for creatively taking problems and finding solutions that allow people to look at dementia differently.
Meet Jennifer Brush, M.A., CCC/SLP
I have been very fortunate that my work with dementia has taken me around the globe, in front of audiences in South America, Australia, Israel, Singapore, throughout Europe, to Washington, DC to advise about healthcare policy, into the board rooms of organizations who want to improve their dementia care, and into the living rooms of countless families with their own stories to share.
Long before I made redesigning dementia care my career, I was a speech language pathologist who saw the need and opportunity to make big changes in the way our elders were treated. I was appalled by what I saw in the nursing homes where I worked: people who could be my grandmother or my grandfather sitting in wheelchairs, doing nothing all day, being trapped in wet diapers, calling out and being ignored. Where others saw problems to disregard, I saw people who deserved better.
I started to learn everything I could about dementia, spending numerous hours reading and studying with experts. My first research and publications were in the area of Spaced Retrieval, a memory invention that helps people with cognitive impairment to learn and retain information over long period of time. I co-authored a book on the subject, taught rehabilitation therapists throughout the country how to implement it, and soon the technique was being use in care communities across the nation. In the past 20 years, a large body of research has been completed on this intervention, and now I have co-authored a second book about this evidence-based memory strategy.
I knew I had the ability to improve long-term care industry wide and on a global scale and wanted to work in an environment where I could be truly innovative.
I had the pleasure of working at IDEAS Institute for many years and eventually served as Executive Director at this research and consulting organization. I co-authored the Environment and Communication Assessment Toolkit for Dementia Care and approximately 25 different peer-reviewed research articles, becoming known as an expert in environmental interventions to improve communication and eating/swallowing for people living with dementia.
In my over 25-year-long career redesigning dementia care, I have written several books, won awards, been invited to speak at national and international conferences, managed many research grants, and served as a co-chair on a national person-centered care task force. In 2014, I became an inaugural member of the Association Montessori International (AMI) Advisory Board for Montessori for Aging and Dementia, and I am the only AMI Certified Educator for Montessori for Aging and Dementia in the US.
In 2019, I began my role as Co-Investigator for a $2.2 million NIH funded grant that seeks to improve wayfinding in long term care communities. The Principal Investigator on the grant is Dr. Rebecca Davis at Grand Valley State University. I’ll be managing the test sites in Cleveland and designing new wayfinding signage for all of the test sites in the research project.
In 2020, I begin an exciting new position, as adjunct faculty at St. Nicholas Montessori College in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland where I teach about Montessori for Aging.
Jennifer Brush’s Professional Biography
Jennifer Brush, MA, CCC/SLP is an award-winning Dementia Educator, author and consultant. Passionate about enriching the lives of people with dementia, Jennifer is on a mission to put the focus of care on the person’s preferences, interests and abilities.
With her over 25 years of industry experience, including leading countless live national and international trainings, facilitating ground-breaking research, and managing innovative person-centered projects for the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health, Jennifer flawlessly bridges the gap between care communities and the individuals they serve. Jennifer serves on the Association Montessori International (AMI) Advisory Board for Montessori for Aging and Dementia and she is the only AMI Certified Educator for Montessori for Aging and Dementia in the US. She is also adjunct faculty at St. Nicholas Montessori College in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
Jennifer is the author of several nationally recognized books on dementia including the silver-medal winning Creative Connections in Dementia Care and I Care, the gold-medal winning work that also received a 5-star rating as a Reader Favorite. Jennifer is widely known for her innovative work in the Spaced Retrieval memory intervention, pioneering this area of study in speech-language pathology and publishing 2 books on the subject. Look for Jennifer’s new co-authored book about Person-Centered Care, to published by Wiley in 2020.
Jennifer’s Co-Authored Books
- Getting Started with Montessori: Volumes 1 & 2
- Spaced Retrieval Step by Step
- Creative Connections in Dementia Care™ (Silver Medal Winner in the 2016 National Health Information Awards)
- I Care (Gold Medal Winner in National Mature Media Awards, Award Finalist in USA Best Book Awards, 5-Star Rating in Readers Favorite Awards)
- Environment and Communication Assessment Toolkit™ (ECAT)
- A Therapy Technique for Improving Memory: Spaced Retrieval
- Methods of Intervention for Improving Functioning in Demented Persons: Montessori Based Activities and Spaced Retrieval. Japan: Miwa Shoten.
Partial List of Jennifer’s Past Speaking Engagements:
- Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, Paris & Chicago
- American Society on Aging
- Montessori Europe, Dublin
- St. Nicholas Montessori College, Dublin
- Fundación Maria Montessori, Buenos Aires
- Montessori Institute of North Texas
- Gerontological Society of America
- Cleveland Clinic Foundation
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association
- Northern Speech Services
- Association Montessori Internationale, Amsterdam
- International Conference on Montessori Environment, Sydney
- Montessori World Congress, Prague
- Texas Speech and Hearing Association
- Kendal Corporation
- Alabama Speech and Hearing Association
- Montessori Training Center of Minnesota
- Pioneer Network
- Maine Healthcare Association
- Ohio Healthcare Association
- Erickson Memory Summit
- Ohio Assisted Living Association
- Baycrest Hospital, Toronto
- Cuyahoga Community College
- Case Western Reserve University
- Cleveland State University
- National Council on Aging
- Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
- Clarion University
Meet our Team of Innovators
Margaret Jarrell, M.Ed., Certified Montessori Guide, AMI Certified Auxiliary Educator, Montessori for Aging and Dementia
Hello, I am Margaret Jarrell, a Montessori teacher and consultant with over 15 years of experience working with students, families, and educators. I was fortunate enough to have been a Montessori student myself and my daughter now attends a Montessori school. In my various roles as a Montessori student, teacher, and parent, I have seen firsthand how Dr. Montessori’s philosophy and methods nurture and support the child’s natural love of learning, desire for independence, innate drive to do meaningful work, and need to serve with purpose as a member of a community.
After earning a BA in Developmental Psychology from Duke University and a Master’s in Education from Marymount University, I was drawn back to the teachings of Dr. Montessori. I earned my Montessori teaching credential from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies and was a Lower Elementary Montessori classroom teacher for twelve years.
I earned the Practitioner Certificate in Montessori for Aging and Dementia through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and have discovered how beautifully the Montessori philosophy of education translates to the home care and residential care settings. I now work as an AMI Auxiliary Trainer on a variety of projects for Brush Development Company, including training and coaching care partners and healthcare professionals who wish to implement Montessori practices in order to improve the quality of life for elders. It is an honor to contribute to this important work that has the power to transform lives!
Mandy Cheskis, M.S., CCC/SLP
Hello, I am Mandy Cheskis and I am passionate about providing quality healthcare to people living with dementia. I have over 25 years of professional experience working as a speech language pathologist with elders living in their homes, in skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living and personal care settings. I have earned the AMI Practitioner Certificate in Montessori for Aging and Dementia and am recognized as a Master Clinician in Cognitive Communication Deficits. I also serve as an educator and mentor in the field.
As a specialist in language and communication and swallowing disorders, I’m very sensitive to the challenges for the person living with dementia. I experience daily the struggles of loved ones and caregivers to maintain their connections and meaningful relationships. Very often people feel that their loved one is no longer the same person they used to be. I am committed to preserving their abilities and maintaining pathways for meaningful connections.
To me, providing quality healthcare for those living with dementia is important because I have seen what is possible. I have seen beauty and have experienced great joy in working with them. I realize that in this work, I often need to take a step back and understand who the person really is- and what interests them to best discover how to help them maintain their personhood. Often, I find that with some personalized modifications, what at first seems impossible can become possible again!
Julia Ballesteros Sentíes, Certified Montessori Guide, LTCH (Licendiada Terapista en Comunicación Humana)
Hola, mi nombre es Julia Ballesteros Sentíes, soy mexicana, me considero una persona muy afortunada por haberme cruzado en el camino personal y profesional con la Filosofía que nos propone la Dra. María Montessori. Tengo más de 20 años trabajando como terapeuta de lenguaje y habla, especialista en neurorehabilitación cognitiva, mi trabajo ha sido principalmente con adultos, personas mayores y personas con demencia, guía Montessori AMI de Casa de Niños y actualmente mamá en una Escuela Montessori. He tenido la inmensa fortuna de presenciar como pequeñas modificaciones en la voluntad, en la actitud y en el ambiente pueden generar grandes cambios y brindar importantes beneficios, no solo en la calidad de vida de la persona y cuidador, en la vinculación que se genera entre ellos, sino principalmente en el sentido que dan a sus Vidas.
Tuve la oportunidad de estudiar y de certificarme como practicante en Montessori para Envejecimiento y Demencia a través de la Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). En estos años de experiencia he comprendido la importancia de enfocarte en todas las posibilidades, en todos los recursos existentes, en las habilidades y en la historia de Vida de la persona etc. Conociendo a la persona y tomando en cuenta toda esta información, los resultados son increíbles.
Hello, my name is Julia Ballesteros Sentíes; I am Mexican. I consider myself a very fortunate person for having crossed paths with, in a personal and professional way, the Philosophy of Dr. María Montessori. I have been working as a speech and language therapist for more than 20 years as a , a specialist in cognitive neurorehabilitation. My work has been mainly with adults, elderly and people with dementia. I am a Children’s House AMI Certified Montessori teacher and currently a Montessori School mom. I am also an AMI Auxillary educator for Montessori for Aging and Dementia. I have had the immense privilege of witnessing how small modifications in one’s attitude and in the environment can generate great changes and provide important benefits, not only in the quality of life of the person and care partner, but in the sense and purpose that they give to their lives.
I had the opportunity to study and become certified as a Montessori practitioner for Aging and Dementia with Jennifer through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). In these years of experience I have understood the importance of focusing on all the possibilities, on all existing resources, and on the skills and life history of the person. By knowing the person and taking all this information into account, the results are incredible. I teach for Brush Development in Spanish speaking area of the US and in other countries.
Katie Norris, M.Div.
Hi, I’m Rev. Katie Norris, I am the co-founder of the Carolyn L. Farrell Foundation for Brain Health and I work on a variety of projects at Brush Development.
My community ministry is devoted to helping people with mental illness and dementia live lives of meaning and purpose. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister with a specialty in pastoral care and communication for people with brain health illness and their families. I have worked tirelessly for years to raise awareness and end stigmas associated with these illnesses through community outreach and public speaking.
I received my BA from John Carroll University and a M.Div from Meadville Lombard Theological School. I enjoy serving on the Board of Directors of Kendal at Home.
I attended Montessori school through eighth grade and my son is a Montessori child. I had the good fortune to become the first person in the US to earn the AMI Practitioner Certificate in Montessori for Aging and Dementia. I have also earned certification to facilitate Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) and together with Jennifer Brush, I am the co-author of Creative Connections in Dementia Care: Engaging Activities to Enhance Communication.