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COTA’s Dedication to People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Makes a Lasting Impact

Patty Fantauzzo is a COTA from Colorado who created a therapy program to ensure long-term care residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias maintain dignity and comfort throughout the disease process.

Patricia Fantauzzo

Patricia "Patty" Fantauzzo, COTA/L

Therapy Program Manager, Chief Therapy Officer, Julia Temple Healthcare Center

Location: Colorado

Certified in 1995

2022 NBCOT Impact Award Winner

Making an Impact for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias

Patty Fantauzzo, a COTA from Colorado, created a therapy program that uses the Abilities Care Approach to ensure long-term care residents who have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias maintain their highest practicable level of cognitive and physical function throughout the disease process.

Prior to Patty’s involvement, long-term care residents with cognitive impairments at Julia Temple Healthcare Center were less likely to receive skilled therapy services. Therapists and physicians had little insight into what therapy could look like for these residents. Patty changed this mindset. She advocated for therapy that focused on the residents’ remaining abilities rather than their deficits. She believed it was critical to consider what the resident could do or may want to do based on their preferences. Patty’s team of therapists embraced this philosophy and as a result, they completely transformed the therapy department and the facility.

A resident wearing a pink hat hugs Patty.

When a resident is admitted to Julia Temple, Patty’s team completes a standardized cognitive assessment to determine the appropriate neighborhood for the resident. Additional assessments are conducted annually, at minimum, to determine whether care approaches need to be modified. Considerations include changes to individualized activity prescriptions and environmental adjustments. Goals are updated to be realistic based on the resident’s current cognitive and physical abilities.

Several program outcomes can be partly traced back to Patty’s work, including a reduction in resident altercations, increased resident independence with certain tasks, and fewer prescriptions for psychotropic medications.

“She taught me to embrace my mom’s Alzheimer’s and to not evaluate my mom through her dementia, but by never giving up trying to understand and evaluate her needs. Patty is solely responsible for helping me embrace my mom’s disease and to continue to find joy and fulfillment in that relationship.”


Generosity of Knowledge

Patty has helped two sister facilities introduce dementia programming into their long-term care services. She has also shared her knowledge on the topic at the Colorado Occupational Therapy Association’s annual conference and to dementia support groups and practitioners at Julia Temple. Sharing her knowledge has supported more meaningful interactions between residents and interdisciplinary team members.

“As someone who worked with Patty when she started at Julia Temple and can compare BP (before Patty) and AP (after Patty), I can say without a doubt that the entire community – staff, residents, and their families – has been changed for the better because of her. Her passion and dedication has also impacted me personally and professionally. Dementia is a life-shattering disease that has impacts at the individual, familial, state, and national level. It is hard to think about how much more devastating and traumatic the dementia experience could be without people like Patty in the field.”

Jessica LeClaire, LCSW

Social Work Consultant

Ongoing Recognition

In addition to the NBCOT Impact Award, Patty has received the Agatha Jackson COTA Award of Excellence from the Colorado Occupational Therapy Association, which recognizes a COTA for excellence in the areas of practice, education, and/or community service. She was also named the COTA of the Year by the Arizona Occupational Therapy Association.

Patty Fantastic

Patty’s colleagues have a nickname for her: Patty Fantastic. She earned it through her extreme ownership and dedication to improving the quality of life for the entire Julia Temple community. Patty credits where she is now to the people who encouraged her: “I respect every OT practitioner who helped me learn, mentored, and encouraged me to continue to grow over the years. They all, along with my experiences helped me recognize and appreciate the gifts we can give to everyone we work with no matter what setting.”

Patty poses with a resident at an outdoor event.

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