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Dr. Rose’s Journey To The Perfect Place
April 12, 2022
Dr. Rose Saunders, Club Director of The Perfect Place

The Leading Lady Behind The Perfect Place

One year ago, Oakwood Creative Care and The Perfect Place joined forces in bringing forth light, hope, dignity, and purpose for seniors living in the Sun Lakes community. Today, The Perfect Place offers a variety of counseling, education, and supportive services to seniors experiencing mild cognitive impairment, moderate dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke, or other age-related impairments. But who is the leading lady behind creating a safe and comfortable environment where loved ones can find new friends, interests, talents, and joy? None other than Dr. Rose Saunders!

A Western Pennsylvania Native

Rose grew up in western Pennsylvania and relocated to Virginia Beach in 1991, when her children were still young. Rose is a huge sports fan – go Steelers! She and her husband have been married for 48 years and recently adopted two Shi-Tzu pups at the start of the pandemic.
A quick fun fact about Rose: She says that, over the years, she has probably baked thousands upon thousands of cookies! As something that her mother passed down to her, baking has been one of Rose’s greatest passions.

She says that, in western Pennsylvania, there is a wedding tradition where “you don’t ask how the wedding was, you ask how the cookies were!” In addition to baking three-tier wedding cakes, Rose says western Pennsylvania residents look forward to having cookie tables with take-home boxes, which she is always happy to contribute to.

Dr. Rose Saunders Representing The Perfect Place at Oakwood's 2022 Jail N'Bail

A Remarkable Woman With An Impeccable Education

Dr. Rose and her team at The Perfect Place
When Rose graduated from nursing school, she went on to work in the pediatrics department of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, specifically the NICU, where she specialized in caring for children with congenital conditions such as cleft palates, congenital heart defects, and Cystic Fibrosis.

Within a year of graduating from nursing school, Rose was asked to fill in as a substitute teacher, and it was then that she uncovered her passion for teaching. Diving deeper into her love for the field of education, Rose went on to pursue her Bachelor’s and then Master’s degree in Nursing of Children from the University of Pittsburgh.

She then relocated to Virginia Beach after being recruited as dean for a faith-based nursing program and later moved again to Richmond, Virginia. Before coming to Arizona, Rose moved to New Jersey, where she became the dean of the largest nursing program in the state.

With a desire to improve the standards for teaching, Rose chose to continue her own education and received her Doctorate in Higher Education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, earning her the esteemed title of “Dr. Rose Saunders.” 

During her residency, Rose took classes in Tucson, Arizona, and, after graduating with her doctoral degree, decided to make Arizona her home. She went on to work for Pima Medical Institute and became a founding dean of the Arizona College of Nursing. Rose was later offered a position with Grand Canyon University, where she became dean of the undergraduate nursing program.

How Her Sister Inspired Her Nursing Journey

Rose’s dream of enhancing the field of nursing education comes in part from living with her sister who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at a young age. She witnessed a greater need for more resources for the cognitively and physically challenged. 
Rose says she felt inspired by her sister and began working for a home for disabled children as a nursing aide during her high school years. Rose says she remembers physicians saying that her sister would likely not live to see her 10th birthday; however, that did not stop Rose’s mother from wanting to secure the best possible future for her sister. With no special education resources available in the town she grew up in, Rose recalls her mother’s dedication to working one-on-one with her sister each and every day and persuading the town’s school system to establish a school for the disabled. Now, Rose is looking forward to celebrating her sister’s 68th birthday!

Her First Introduction To Dementia Care

While she was still living in Virginia, Rose had begun receiving phone calls about her mother-in-law, who at the time was living in another state. These phone calls came from neighbors who had noticed Rose’s mother-in-law exhibiting some unusual behaviors, prompting Rose to travel to be at her side. She decided to take her mother-in-law in for evaluation at a geriatric center, and it was then that doctors diagnosed Rose’s mother-in-law with dementia. Shortly after, Rose brought her with her to Virginia and took on the role of being her caregiver. 
As time passed, Rose says her mother-in-law’s cognitive state shifted from recognizing who her loved ones were to not being able to form sentences. Her mother-in-law was eventually placed in a memory care facility, where she passed away at the age of 88. During this time, Rose began to learn more about dementia and gained first-hand experience navigating nursing homes, specialized care facilities, and all of the hoops that caregivers often have to jump through to ensure their loved ones receive the best care possible.

Rose’s Vision For The Perfect Place

Dr. Rose Saunders and Sherri Friend at The Perfect Place
Since joining The Perfect Place in January of 2020 as the Club Director, Rose says she has been entirely captivated by the happiness and light that radiates from every member each and every day.

“The members get joy from the programs; they really do. And their families get respite while they’re here. It makes a big difference. And the members’ families all have the opportunity to make friendships, too. So it’s really something!”

Oakwood Creative Care and The Perfect Place’s combined mission to spark moments of joy and increase the quality of life for seniors with age-related cognitive and physical challenges, such as dementia or Parkinson’s, is the very thing that gives Rose hope for the future. When asked what her vision is for growing The Perfect Place, Rose says she hopes to get back to her nursing roots by consulting with Arizona’s colleges and higher education programs about including dementia care in their curriculum.

I want to get nursing students involved. I want to spread opportunities for education and invite more focus on dementia into nursing programs. I want to talk more about the aging process and geriatrics. I want other nurses and [health care professionals] to have a greater understanding about early detection so we have an opportunity to learn more about what we can do to improve outcomes early on.

Meet Dr. Rose During The Perfect Place’s Grand Reopening!

The Perfect Place's Grand Reopening!
Dr. Rose Saunders and Sherri Friend at The Perfect Place

Welcome

We're a nonprofit organization based in Mesa, Arizona with three senior day club locations (and a fourth on the way) which serve older adults with Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and various other physical or cognitive challenges. Life does not end with a diagnosis. Our members continue to learn new skills, enjoy new discoveries, make friends, laugh, and live a joy-filled life. Our team of dementia experts lead support groups, events, classes, and private sessions with caregivers and families, guiding them on the best methods to care for their loved ones while also caring for themselves.


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