Tag Archives: AGE-u-cate Training Institute

How Can We Better Support and Educate Family Caregivers?

Family CaregiversAccording to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 percent of the adult U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative.   That is 65.7 million family caregivers who are desperately needing education, training, support and help with finding available resources.  We must do a better job as these numbers are increasing drastically with our aging population.

I am passionate about family caregiving needs.  Why?  Because over 25 years ago, I became a family caregiver myself.  With zero preparation and knowledge, little did I know that for the next 15 years I would be identified as a family caregiver for my aging parents.  But 25 year ago I didn’t identify as a caregiver for my parents.  I was raising my two young children for goodness sake!  I loved and respected my parents dearly so I was just doing what a loving child should do.  Little did I know the emotional, physical and spiritual challenges that comes with caring for an aging parent.  Would I trade  that time?  Absolutely not!  Did it make me a passionate advocate for anyone sharing the journey that I walked?  You bet.

I’m going to be very frank in saying that in the 25+ years that I have personally and professionally been in the family caregiving space, we have made some strides.  Not fast enough to keep up with demands.  We still have lots of work to do to include families to actively and  intentionally include them as part of the care team.

A new study lead by Jo-Ana Chase, assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing, interviewed family caregivers of old adults who received home health care after a hospitalization to better understand caregiver’s experience regarding training and support.

She found that most family caregivers receive little formal training, and these caregivers need home health care providers to proactively engage them in planning and decision-making for more effective, coordinated care.

“Caregivers want to know how best to care for their loved ones, but they often feel like they are learning on their own,” Chase says.

As stakeholders across the spectrum of care, we will all see better outcomes by including families as a integral member of the care team.  But we must do so intentionally.  Are we including in our staff training the needs of families?  There are many complex issues that family caregivers face, and if staff do not understand their challenges, then they certainly cannot be expected to help them find solutions.

The weaknesses in our healthcare system have been made abundantly clear with the events of COVID-19.  At the same time, we have many opportunities to take from these lessons and make our organizations better.  This is the time that leaders must take a hard look at how effectively they are training and supporting their staff AND families.  Without both of these working together, we’ll continue to struggle in providing the quality of care that our older adults deserve.

Pam Brandon is President and Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, a global company dedicated to quality aging and dementia care training.   AGE-u-cate’s latest initiative, REVEAL Aging Workforce training includes in all of it’s courses, staff training on the needs of families.  Pam may be reached at pam@AGEucate.com



#KnowMorePD – Elevating Awareness of Parkinson’s Disease

April marks Parkinson’s Awareness Month and the theme the Parkinson’s Foundation has chosen is #KnowMorePD to help elevate the public’s awareness of the disease and to share the resources available to those who are diagnosed with PD and their families

Parkinsons’s Disease (PD) is a complex movement disorder with symptoms that vary from person to person.  Some of these symptoms may include tremors, slurred speech,  a masked face, slow movement, and unsteady gait.  Because PD is largely misunderstood  by the general public and even healthcare professionals, it’s often frightening to see a person struggle with these symptoms.  And when people don’t understand what is happening, they generally react by becoming fearful or avoiding that person.

My mother’s journey with PD was one that she would often describe as life on a roller coaster.  One day, she would feel energetic and would go about her activities with ease, and the next day, exhaustion would overtake her, making the simplest tasks a monumental feet.

Along with the physical symptoms that others would see (and not understand), such as slowness of movement and unsteady gait, PD can wreak havoc on the inside.  My mother, like others  living with PD often struggled with depression, ill side effects from medications that are constantly in need of adjustment, and feeling self-conscious for unexplained  physical movements.  While PD can be managed with medications, it is a disease that progresses, so living with the unknown of what will happen to body and mind can lead to a constant fear of tomorrow.

As her caregiver, I too felt her emotions, because that is what caregivers do – take on the emotions of those they love.  So that ‘roller coaster’ was a ride we both shared.  It’s so very important for persons who are diagnosed with PD to seek education, resources and support – for themselves and their care partners and families.  With education comes empowerment, and with support comes the community of others to help with knowing you are not alone.

While there is so much advancement being done to treat PD and research that will hopefully lead to cure, we must also focus our efforts on elevating our awareness, education, resources and support for this mysterious and challenging disease.   Please support the work of the many national organizations who are working tirelessly to bring an end to PD, and to your local chapters and community organizations who help bring awareness and education to people like my mom and me who journeyed together in living with Parkinson’s Disease.


Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, a global organization dedicated to supporting aging services providers with caregiver training to improve the quality of life for older adults.





Aging Services Future Focus

On the brink of a new decade, I contemplate what the next ten years will look like for the aging services industry. Reflecting on the past provides me some hope for the future. In some respects, we have come a long way.  By the same token, we should maintain a future focus and continue to develop more strategies that support the quality of living of frail elders.

One future focus could be to equip our caregivers with best practice strategies to respond to resident behaviors utilizing therapeutic approaches. 

We realized years ago that physical and chemical restraints weren’t the answer. The emergence of Compassionate Touch, Music & Memory, and Joy for All Companion Pets are best practice possibilities. All of these interventions provide a non-pharmacological approach to improving quality of life.  Expressive touch, music, and pets to love address basic human needs of connection, inclusion, and purpose, to name a few.

A second future focus could be to educate our employees about the process of aging and dementia to demystify, normalize, and create an environment of understanding and acceptance.

Can we say that our caregivers understand the process of aging? In addition, do they comprehend and empathize with the struggle of living with memory loss and sensory changes?  To that end, employee education creates empathetic caregivers, and that leads to better care. In the same way,  this is also true for family members.  More understanding leads to better care partners.

As one example, the educational program Dementia Live provides caregivers with an inside-out understanding of what it is like to live with dementia. It is a powerful experience for employees and family members.


A third future focus could be to cultivate a revitalized workforce.

The workforce challenges that face the aging services industry seems overwhelming and hopeless.  But keep this in mind, nurses did not take care of post-heart transplant patients twenty years ago in skilled nursing.  We rose to the challenge. Nothing is impossible.  Providers alone cannot entirely solve this problem. However, there are things to do that can get the ball rolling.

In conclusion, while the future may look daunting, consider how far we have come over the previous 10-20 years. Celebrate the evolution of an industry that was once “warehousing,” and face the future with boldness and ample self-care, we will need it.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  In addition, she is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Retention Culture: Antidote to C.N.A Turnover in LTC

Shaping organizational culture and respect for Certified Nursing Assistants can impact retention.

Kathy Dreyer penned a terrific post last week about Long Term Care Certified Nursing Assistants and turnover. This issue has been identified as a crisis. I submit that it is also a tragedy, because, we have ignored the problem with the lack of a national strategy.

Certified Nursing Assistants are the backbone of care in long term care. They provide care for those that nobody else can, or will.

Our nation’s 1.3 million nursing home residents depend on C.N.As  365 days of the year for personal care of all types and levels. This is not an easy job. But those that continue to do this work know that it is also soul-filling and rewarding. But, what else makes some stick with it?

Retention Through Culture and Respect

A 2009 study found that an organizational culture that respects and invests in their workers inspires retention. To that end, I submit that Certified Nursing Assistants in Long Term Care do not receive the recognition they deserve.

Nationally, nothing has been done to advance the vocation. Additionally, at the state level, dismal Medicaid reimbursement has a disastrous effect on wages. Consequently, all we can directly control is our organizational culture.

If we truly value our seniors, we should vigorously value the people who are taking care of them, day in and day out.  An article in Provider Magazine speaks to the importance of respecting certified nursing assistants as individuals to retention.

Concrete Steps

  • Invest in training and education. Help C.N.As grow,  and acquire new skills (refer to previous blog for more ideas).
  • Tell their wonderful stories. Profile C.N.As who live the values of your organization and contribute to a high quality of life and care.
  • Lift them to your residents, family members, and the larger community.
  • Arrange for regular scheduled time off the floor with coverage to participate in QAPI initiatives.
  • Ask for their opinions, ideas, and find ways they can contribute to decision making.
  • Intentionally incorporate into their schedule time for relationship building. In addition, allow them to spend time with elders outside of their job as a caregiver- as a human being that enriches life.
  • Find ways that your C.N.As can share their gifts and talents with co-workers, residents and family members.

Ponder whether your organizational culture truly respects not just the work, but the personhood of your Certified Nursing Assistants. In doing so, you may realize improved retention, the antidote to turnover.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.