Personal: Overcame a rare condition as a teen.
Occupation: Memory Care Director at Brookdale Hollywood Park overseeing Alzheimer’s and dementia patient care.
Believes that: “You have to have a calling, passion for your life’s work. So many of my peers are still trying to figure it out. I am very blessed to have found my career so young. I want to stay on this path indefinitely.”
Favorite ways to relax: Being at home with fiancé Jared Conyers and Shih Tzu Teddy and rescue dog Ranger.
People would be surprised to know: “I was always the class clown, the outgoing child. And I’m a hopeless romantic, but everyone knows that!”
Words to live by: Her mother’s favorite quote from a lyric in Jimmy Buffett’s song He Went to Paris — “Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic. But I had a good life all of the way.”
Must-watch TV: All the fictional crime shows: NCIS, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD. “Jared and I are super into them!”
What she’s reading: A gift from a patient’s family, Into the Light: Real Life Stories about Angelic Visits, Visions of the Afterlife and Other Pre-death Experiences, by John Lerma, M.D.
Courtney Cox has the same name as the comedic actress of her favorite show Friends and really values a good laugh. In fact, her favorite quote is one by Charlie Chaplin, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” That happy disposition has helped her in her personal journey as well as her career doing important work for her patients and their families. The young Ms. Cox is one of the youngest Memory Care Directors for Brookdale Communities, which operates 1500 senior living solutions in 46 states.
At Brookdale Hollywood Park, Cox oversees a unit of up to 27 dementia and Alzheimer’s care patients and management of resident assistants and medical aides. She finds the work both challenging and rewarding. “I think of them as family,” she explains. “I’m on call 24 hours. I’m very involved with my (patients’) families. I want to help, and if I don’t know something, I’ll find the answer.” While she says in her seven months on the job she is still learning and coming to more fully understand the diseases of her patients, she has put her energies and enthusiasm into programs like a new support group for residents’ families. She also takes her residents on Wednesday morning drives – excursions like feeding ducks or seeing deer.
Her path to health care started when as a child her best friend’s mother died from breast cancer, leading the youngster to hope someday to find a cure. In high school, she earned a place in a prestigious medical program that included a year of clinical training, rotations at various medical facilities, Emergency Medical Technician training and Certified Nursing Assistant licensing. Health care and medicine were her driving interests when, at age 17, illness struck. The ensuing four months with no diagnosis and a dramatic weight loss were both difficult and enlightening. “I was 17, at a children’s hospital,” she recalls. “My parents slept in my room with me, and yet down the hall there were 2-year-olds without the support of parents. It was clear to me that so many people needed help. I knew for sure then I wanted to go into health care.”
The health scare was a time for her to fall into the love and strength of her family but also to call upon her faith. “My spiritual relationship with God led me to pray — it was the only thing I knew to do,” she says. Once healthy and back at school, she was given the opportunity to perform CPR with supervision on a patient that was dead on arrival (DOA). To her astonishment and joy, the heartbeat returned. “It was amazing and exciting – I knew yet again I was to go into medicine,” she says.
Knowing that she wanted to help others, she focused on nursing in her studies at Oklahoma University and Texas Tech and then a multidisciplinary program at the University of Texas that encompassed sociology, psychology and nursing. For six years she balanced full-time studies, another illness and a series of part-time jobs, always in the health care and medical fields. These jobs included medical records, medical assistance, pain management and work as a doctor’s assistant for a physician who made calls to nursing homes. It was then that she recognized a personal fulfillment: “I got so close with patients. I just fell in love with them.” Seeing them only occasionally, with long waits between appointments, wasn’t enough. “That’s what I wanted to do, to have more consistent experiences with patients,” she says.
Building relationships with those who are nearing the end of their lives is understandably difficult, but Cox puts things into perspective:“I get to be their family, and so does my staff. This is their home, and I get to make it the best experience for them. I want them to live as fully as possible and for their time to be positive for the rest of their lives. I come in knowing I’ve made a difference every day.”
When a life ends, she provides comfort and support, saying, “I want to be a part of that for the families. It’s an important aspect of care.” Days like that are hard, and Cox credits God for the strength she draws from her belief. “It’s very spiritual. I don’t know what I’d do without my faith.” She shares that faith with her patients, leading them in a daily devotional from her grandmother, along with three readings and three hymns and ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
Cox, the youngest of five siblings, says she loves having a big family. Talking to her father every day after work and conferencing with her mom helps her stay connected to the family she loves. “He always wanted to be in health care. Dad’s my greatest cheerleader, he’s always been proud of me,” she says of the businessman. Cox is very close to her maternal grandmother – her Nana — and counts her mom as her best friend.
Cox is planning a wedding this year with fiancé Jared Conyers, a middle school teacher and coach. “He loves my ambition and has my back,” she says. Conyers often references a line from Friends where character Chandler describes Courtney Cox’s character Monica as a mom without a baby. “That’s me, I’m a mom without a baby,” she says with a laugh. The two have two dogs, but she sees parenting kids in her future: “I can’t wait to be a mother. I’d like to have three kids. Whatever God blesses us with.”