Category Archives: Dementia Live

Employee Education = Engagement = Quality Care

Employees at Emerald Health and Rehab in North Carolina are immersed in education about the positive effects of expressive touch.

We understand the negative impact on quality care as a result of high employee turnover.  However, more elusive is an understanding of how lackluster engagement of employees with longevity impacts quality.

Much of the focus is on recruiting new employees, and rightly so. Estimates show employee turnover nationally at 45%-66%.

At the same time, it is important that we also maintain the spirit and engagement of current employees. However, scare resources have forced employers in Aging Services to make tough decisions.

Cuts into the marrow of the employee education budget in light of the current staffing challenges could be devastating.  In doing so, we inadvertently create a more disengaged workforce and impair quality.

Defense Against Declining Quality Care

The vital connection in health care is that employee engagement drives quality of care. To that end, one of the best ways to engage employees is through ongoing hands-on education and training.

Guard against what could become turn-over induced decline in quality with a robust and engaging employee education program for your experienced and dedicated employees.

Employees with longevity have also felt the devastation of workforce challenges.  Fatigue with over-time and the constant flow of new employees in and out impacts the spirit of our dedicated workers.  All the more reason to dedicate resources and efforts towards their ongoing growth and engagement.

The absence of training appears on this list of reasons for poor employee engagement. Employees with longevity also need to continue to learn and adopt best practices. In doing so, we ensure the evolution of our quality of care and service.

In conclusion,  a corporate culture that supports growth and education for long-term employees will promote engaged workers and defend against declining quality care and service.

 

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 to private 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.

How Do You Score in Empowering Your Caregivers?

From the conversations I have every single day with our partners, I’m guessing most of you would give yourselves an adequate score at best.  And perhaps this is on a good day.  “Empowering Your Caregivers” – some of you might just be asking what exactly I mean by empowering caregivers.

Our old friend, Merriam-Webster says that Empower is to promote the self-actualization or influence of or to enable.  An example: the women’s movement has been inspiring and empowering women.  

What makes the challenge so difficult when we talk about empowering our caregivers, especially those who are serving persons living with dementia?  This is where it gets fuzzy, right?  We have massive numbers of persons living dementia and not enough caregivers to go around, so those that are doing so by and large are stretched – to the max.  And like all professions, when demand outweighs supply,  people look for other jobs if they are not satisfied.  Thus the reason for a very high level of turnover among caregivers, especially those who care for persons with dementia.

Certainly, there are other factors that are equally as important such as pay, benefits and the stress that comes with caring for another person with cognitive decline.

Why then, are some providers able to outperform others when it comes to staff turnover, more satisfied employees AND happier residents, clients or patients?  They are as vulnerable as anyone else is to staffing shortages, wage and benefit offerings and the job itself is just as challenging no matter where one works.  Right?

Maybe that’s not always true.  My discussions consistently come down to the winners in this game invest in their caregivers.  They invest their resources, time and attention in Empowering their Caregivers.  The winners stand out with simple but strongly held core beliefs:  that caregivers MUST be:

  • Educated
  • Have the Tools with which to do their job well
  • Listened to
  • Rewarded

It’s funny, that when someone is educated or trained to do their job well, they then have the tools available.  If they are listened to, they feel a part of the team, and low and behold, when they are rewarded, they feel like what they do everyday matters.

And what our caregivers do every day DOES matter – it matters to your resident, to their families, to the culture of your business and ultimately it matters in how others view who you are as a provider of services.

Let’s not underestimate the power of empowering your caregivers.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and the creator of the Dementia Live® Sensitivity Awareness Training Program.  She is a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  

The Transformative Power of Music in Ageing Care

By Sue Silcox, AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, Australia

Does anyone remember the banning of public music in Iran? Back in 1979 Ayatollah Rubollah Khomeini banned all music from radio and television in Iran. He likened it to opium and said it “stupefies persons listening to it and makes their brain inactive and frivolous.” (New York Times, 1979).

I remember it happening and being horrified by the ban. Every culture has music and it has always been such a blessing for me. From the first music I heard my parents play, the first record I ever bought (Cathy’s Clown, The Everly Brothers) to using Spotify now when I take Ageless Grace® classes locally, I am thankful for what it brings me.

How amazing that a study in 2001 from Leicester University, UK, found that babies recognise the music they heard in the womb even twelve months later. In this study, mothers played a single piece of music repeatedly during the third trimester. A year after birth, the infants recognised and turned towards that sound, preferring it to a similar sounding piece of music, even though they had not heard the music in the interim. Music certainly has power!

I’m one of the first baby boomers so I’ve had the pleasure of listening and moving through music styles such as pop, rock and roll, country music and jive, twist just for a start. I also have the remembrance of swing and big band as my parents would dance together or get us to dance with them. Many a tune brings a memory of the old HMV turntable my aunt had. She would play her favourite artist, in particular Nat King Cole and I wonder how many of my preferences have been influenced by those early sounds.

For me, to be without music as I age would be like living in the dark ages. Although I like to move my body to contemporary music I also find myself emotionally transported as I listen to music I love. A 2017 study found that physical exercise done to music showed greater increase in cognitive function than just exercise alone, and may be of benefit in delaying age-related cognitive decline. It also makes changes to the brain structure. My love and use of music and exercise seems to be validated! Music should be also be considered a drug therapy, providing benefits linked to reward, motivation and pleasure. (Howland, R. H, 2016).

In Australia the Arts Health Institute brought a music and memory program to aged care, now overtaken by the music enrichment program, “Music Remembers Me” in aged care. Perhaps we also need to encourage movement during the music enrichment program.

Whether music is enjoyed on its own or shared, it can be an intensely special time for the listener. Now it seems the joy of the music can provide considerable benefit to our ageing and dementia communities.

Sue Silcox leads AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, Australia and is a Certified Master Trainer for Dementia Live®, Compassionate Touch®, and other AGE-u-cate programs.  She lives in Brisbane, Queensland.   She may be contacted at sue.silcox@ageucate.com

References:

Kifner, J. 1979. Khomeini Bans Broadcast Music, Saying It Corrupts Iranian Youth. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1979/07/24/archives/khomeini-bans-broadcast-music-saying-it-corrupts-iranian-youth.html

BBC News, July 2011. Babies remember womb music. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1432495.stm

Ken-ichi et al. (2017). Physical Exercise with Music Reduces Gray and White Matter Loss in the Frontal Cortex of Elderly People: The Mihama-Kiho Scan Project. Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience, Vol 9 (2017), doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00174/full

Howland, R. H. (2016). Hey Mister Tambourine Man, Play a Drug for Me. Journal Of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services54(12), 23-27. doi:10.3928/02793695-20161208-05