'Get to know the person you're caring for': Behaviour resource consultant Mary Anne Johnston passionate about client-centered continuing care

Mary Anne Johnston is a behaviour resource consultant in Pictou County (Contributed).
Mary Anne Johnston is a behaviour resource consultant in Pictou County (Contributed).

For behaviour resource consultant Mary Anne Johnston of Pictou County, a simple mantra of “find out what they like and give it to them” helps her provide clients with compassionate care.

Johnston began her career as a nurse and diligently worked to become the director of support planning at Riverview Home Corporation in Stellarton. Years later, she came across a job opening for a behaviour resource consultant,

“It was interesting how I ended up in this position,” said Johnston. “I saw a job posting with the title ‘putting the pieces together’ and I was intrigued because I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles.”

“My background is in mental health and applied behaviour analysis,” she explained. “When I learned more about behaviour resource consultants, I knew that it would be a good fit for me.”

In her current role, Johnston spends her days providing support to NSHA’s continuing care coordination team, home care agencies and long-term care facilities who serve older adults with cognitive impairment, mental health issues, addictions and other neurological conditions.

Whether conducting case-based consultations with acute care to ease transition from hospital to long-term care, or facilitating education sessions for home care providers, she draws on the strengths of care partners, coaching them to better understand the needs of the person in order to provide better care. 

“I meet a lot of people and everyone brings something new to the table. I really enjoy the collaboration with my colleagues,” she said.

After 11 years in her position, Johnston says no two days have been the same.

“All behaviour has meaning and in my role I support care teams and families in becoming behavioural detectives to figure out what that behaviour means and what the client is trying to show and tell them.”

“We have clients who have advanced stage dementia and can be fearful and confused about what is happening to them. Their reality isn’t necessarily our reality and we have to put the puzzle pieces together to help them.”

She added, “I’ve always had a very strong philosophy of client-centered care and doing what the client needs and wants. Not judging the behaviours that you are seeing and looking for the meaning behind them is important.”

“You need to get to know the person you’re caring for,” Johnston said. “They were all someone else before this illness happened to them and it’s important to have compassion.”

October is Continuing Care Month, a time to recognize the continuing care sector and the thousands of dedicated and compassionate people who have chosen this caring field of employment, and the positive difference they make in the lives of the Nova Scotians they support. To learn more about continuing care programs, please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/continuing-care.