Tag Archives: Dementia Live

Aging Services Future Focus

The rails may seem long and never-ending, but there are stops along the way. Aging Services providers keep looking to the future.

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.

Workforce

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.

Education First in Dementia Care

Foundational Education is critical for inexperienced caregivers of persons with Dementia. Don’t rely on understanding through experience alone.

Working in senior care for over 30 years, it takes digging deep to recall my early experiences interacting with the elderly and those with dementia.  I was a volunteer and an intern during college when my first encounters occurred.

My experiences were mostly pleasant and fun. The people were just older versions of my grandparents. I enjoyed visiting with the independent seniors. They showed me around their cute apartments and told me stories.  However, encountering people with dementia was another story.

It puzzled me when one lady repeatedly said, “I want to go home,” when she was at home. I didn’t know what to say. One lady forgot that I was picking her up for a concert, even though I reminded her the day before. I thought maybe she didn’t want to go after all.

Little did I know that these people had Alzheimer’s Disease.  Learning that their memory was impaired, I assumed they had NO memory.  Therefore, I thought it was my job to remind them of everything.  I thought their brains could be fixed. I was wrong about a lot of things, albeit well-intentioned.

Learning Through Education and Experience

Over-time, I “got it” and became more comfortable being around people with dementia.  My confidence grew as time went on.  I learned that the things they said and their behaviors didn’t define their personhood. Consequently, I came to enjoy being with them.

Looking back, I can see how extraordinarily helpful training like Dementia Live would have been. I genuinely think it would have propelled my understanding and improved my interactions ten-fold.  Webinars and lectures barely scratch the surface to learn what it takes to promote quality of life for persons with dementia.

Time and experience alone should not be our only path to understanding.  The valuable lessons that the  Dementia Live experience teaches learners include:

  • persons with dementia experience feelings, even with impaired memory
  • their behaviors are a form of communication
  • the environment makes a big difference in their ability to connect
  • purpose in life is still essential for their well-being
  • our communication approaches can make or break an interaction

Learning does comes with time and experience.  However, I submit that ground zero isn’t the best place to start.  People with dementia deserve better than to be surrounded by uninformed, clueless people, such as I was years ago.

 

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.

Specialized Dementia Training and Employee Turnover

 

Specialized Dementia Training can have a positive impact on reducing employee turnover.

The AGE-u-cate Training Institute received encouraging feedback from a client, and it is worthy of a share. A home health agency that utilizes Dementia Live for staff training reported that their employee turnover is decreasing. Furthermore, the turnover correlates with their implementation of  Dementia Live, a simulation training experience of what it might be like to have dementia.

This news made us curious about the connection between specialized dementia training and employee turnover.

PHI is an organization with a mission to promote quality care through quality jobs. PHI identifies staffing in long term care a national crisis and reports conservative estimates of turnover across the long-term care sector ranging from 45 to at least 66 percent. In addition, one in four nursing assistants and one in five home health aides report that they are actively looking for another job.

The Dementia Care Foundation (DCF), based in Darwin, MN, studied staff retention and turnover in those working with persons with dementia. The research premise is based on findings by Brodaty et al., 2003 that turnover is particularly challenging in dementia care.

Effectiveness of Specialized Training

Researchers with the DCF also cited findings from Chrzescijanksi, et al., 2007; Coogle et al., 2007 that specialized training has been shown to reduce staff turnover while simultaneously improving the quality of care.

Relationships with co-workers was the most significant factor contributing to employment exodus.  However,  findings also reveal a connection in turnover and the lack of specialized training.

The DCF also uncovered a relationship between dissatisfaction with training about managing dementia behaviors and how likely respondents were to leave their job within the year.

Specialized is the keyword. Training for staff working with persons with dementia needs to heighten understanding and empathy. In addition, it should equip staff with knowledge and skills to respond to and reduce difficult behavioral expressions.

Something else to ponder is if and how employee relationships improve with specialized dementia training.

The training philosophy behind  Dementia Live is that it is hard to care for someone that you don’t understand.  Lack of understanding leads to stress, burnout, and ultimately turnover.

In conclusion, consider investing in specialized dementia training as a strategy to reduce employee turnover.  In addition, the impact on employee relationships following specialized training would also be an interesting aspect to explore.

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.

What is Huntington’s Disease and Understanding it’s link to Alzheimer’s

May is Huntington’s Disease (HD) Awareness Month, sponsored by the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.   This often unknown and misunderstood disease and it’s link to Alzheimer’s  symptoms is worthy of discussion.   Let’s delve into understanding Huntington’s Disease.

According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America,  HD is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.  It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure.  HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene.  Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic American and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.

Symptoms of HD are described as having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s-simultaneously.  Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 30 to 50 and worsen over a 10 to 25-year period.  Ultimately, the weakened individual succumbs to pneumonia, heart failure or other complications.  Everyone has the gene that causes HD, but only those that inherit the expansion of the gene will develop HD and perhaps pass it on to each of their children.  Every person who inherits the expanded HD gene will eventually develop the disease.  Over time, HD affects the individual’s ability to reason, walk and speak.

HD Symptom’s include:

  • Personality changes, mood swings and depression
  • Forgetfulness and impaired judgment
  • Unsteady gait and involuntary movements
  • Slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing and weight loss

The symptomatic links to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia include personality changes, mood swings, depression, forgetfulness, and impaired judgment.  The complex symptoms of HD are manifested in the changes of motor, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms.   These symptoms begin insidiously and progress over many years, until the death of the individual.  The average length of survival after clinical diagnosis is typically 10 -20 years, but some people have lived thirty or forty years with the disease.  Late stage HD can last up to a decade or more.

Caregivers of persons with Huntington’s Disease need education, support, and resources.  State organizations of the Huntington’s Disease of America provide a means for caregivers and persons living with HD to come together.  I’ve been honored to speak at several of the Texas conferences and I will tell you that learning about this disease and the challenges they face has enlightened me to the fact that awareness of this disease is greatly needed by society.  I encourage our readers to join the HDSA social media campaign #LetsTalkAboutHD.

Like Alzheimer’s, families of persons with HD need tools to cope, a great understanding of their challenges, and a greater sense of empathy.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the Dementia Live® sensitivity awareness program to help caregivers and the community understand what it’s like to live with cognitive challenges.