Tag Archives: AGE-u-cate Training Institute

Keep it Simple and Engage – Tips for Effective Dementia Training

High staff turnover in long-term care is certainly not a recent phenomenon.  Going back to the 1970s studies pointed to average turnover rates for registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) ranging between 55% – 75%.  With growing demands for these professions as our aging population explodes, many providers are reporting upwards of 100% turnover.  Many factors need to be addressed – one being how we are preparing this workforce to work with the growing numbers of older adults with dementia? Leaders have many options for dementia training.  What do we hear most often?  Keep it simple and engage the learner!

The question is –  Have we made dementia training to complex?  

Before I go further on the urgent need for more effective dementia training, I want to make note of the other factors that lead to high turnover rates.  Certainly, low wages and high stress in this field leads to burnout rates at a faster rate than other fields.   Research has also pointed to organizations that foster communications and teamwork, and rewarding employees as being a growing factor in lowering turnover and keeping high-quality employees.

Because eldercare is fast becoming about dementia care, dementia training is now front and center on the agenda of virtually every elder care provider and hospital,  and with dementia friendly initiatives, it’s safe to say that if you are NOT prioritizing this urgent need, you will be left far behind in a short period of time.  To support this effort, state and federal mandates are now in place to ensure that staff is better prepared to provide quality care to those living with dementia.

Our workforce is culturally diverse and reaches across several generational groups. The findings revealed human attention span has fallen from an average of 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just eight seconds today. Humans now have less of an attention span than a goldfish (nine seconds average). A study by Microsoft revealed that the decrease was seen across all age groups and genders in the study. Those in the age bracket of 18 to 34 had a 31 percent high sustained attention span compared to those age 55 and over at 35 percent.

What does this mean for dementia training?  With a high-turnover, a culturally diverse workforce with decreasing attention spans, we need to be able to train quickly, effectively and provide rewards for those who are using trained skills to improve care.

Here are tips for rethinking your dementia training program:

  • Communication techniques should not be overly complicated.  Simple tools that are effective and feasible to adopt will be integrated much more successfully by staff.
  • Focus on the effects of dementia, and not the disease itself.  Effects include the changes that take place with problem-solving, judgment, sensory changes, memory, mood, language, personality.  Teach techniques with role-playing and team-work rather than listening to a presentation.  Learners who are engaged retain more knowledge.
  • If you are going to teach a new tool,  having the learner go through a like experience will provide them with an inside-out understanding of the person with whom they are caring.
  • Dementia training should include techniques that will reduce stress for both care partners.
  • Think tools.  Does this training provide feasible, effective tools that caregivers can easily reach for (because they have been trained simply and engaged in the training)?  If tools are not part of the training, what they learn will soon be forgotten.
  • Reward employees with benchmark successes.  We all need to nurture care staff far more than most of us are doing!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for culture change and caregivers.  She is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live awareness and training program, co-developer of Compassionate Touch and other dementia education programs.  pam@ageucate.com

 

 

Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s – the Challenges of Diagnosis

Research confirms that by the age of 40, almost 100% of persons with Down syndrome who die have changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Understanding this link and the challenges of a diagnosis of AD in persons with Down syndrome is important for families and healthcare professionals.

Down Syndrome occurs when a person has three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the normal two copies.  Studies show that one of the main genes responsible for AD is on the 21st chromosome and is more active in persons with Down syndrome.  Because of this extra copy of the Alzheimer gene, virtually 100% of people with Down syndrome will develop the plaques and tangles in the brain associated with AD, but not necessarily the same memory loss.  Although research is not complete, it is estimated that about 50% of persons with Down syndrome will develop the characteristic memory problems of AD before age 50.

Testing for AD in persons with Down syndrome is often challenging.  Diagnosis of AD is difficult for a number of reasons:

  • Persons with Down syndrome are susceptible to hypothyroidism and depression, which are both reversible conditions but often go untreated and can be mistaken for AD.
  • Side effects of medications taken for either of these conditions can also mimic AD.
  • Normal AD skills testing are often not applicable for persons with Down syndrome simply because of learning differences.
  • Communication skills of persons with Downs syndrome may affect the results of assessment testing.

Families need to watch for signs of AD, especially as their loved one reaches middle age years.  Diagnosis is important, but also education, resources, and support are especially critical for care partners.  Learning to better respond to surprising new behaviors will prepare families for AD symptoms, such as changes in judgment,  processing speed, memory recall, to name a few.

Care partners, either family or professionals, need to have access to new communication tools, understand that care processes will need to be adjusted as well as home or residential changes to their living environment.  Staff and family training will help care partners better serve their residents and loved ones.

Person-centered care approaches to help persons with Down’s syndrome who have developed AD is key to maintaining a loving, trusting environment, where they feel loved, valued and are treated as individuals.

Pam Brandon is President and Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for culture change, improving the quality of life of aging adults, and transformative training for professional and family care partners.  She is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live® simulation experience and collaborated with expert Ann Catlin on the transformational Compassionate Touch® training.  

References:

http://Dementia.org.au

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Ushering in a New Culture of Change at Pioneer Network

We are honored to be a part of the National Pioneer Network Conference kicking off today in beautiful Denver, Colorado.  Ushering in a New Culture of Change promises to be an enlightening and invigorating educational and networking event for participants and those serving the elder care industry.  AGE-u-cate® Training Institute will be offering it’s internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® Experience and Compassionate Touch® Program to innovators

Pioneer Network was founded in 1997 by a small group of prominent professionals in long-term care who were pioneers in changing the culture of aging. These forward thinkers developed the mission and vision, as well as the values and principles, that continue to guide their work to this day.  Today, Pioneer Network is a large, diverse group of passionate individuals from the entire spectrum of aging services. Most are engaged in some aspect of senior living or long-term care which includes nursing homes, assisted living, and other providers of services and supports for elders, as well as the generous supporters, including people that work, live in or visit these settings.

The goals of Pioneer Network have and continue to be a model of care that supports and makes possible for our elders these elements:

Life-Affirming, that is promoting a positive outlook that encourages optimism about life; one that is hopeful and ultimately enjoyable.

Satisfying, meaning that desires, expectations, and needs of the individual are being met so that the person has a sense of contentment.

Humane, which is characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for our elders and those who are suffering.

Meaningful, which simply is having a sense of purpose and a meaning in their lives.

Pioneer Network was started by pioneers and to this day continues to lead the way for a culture of change in elder care around the world.  We face many challenges ahead in meeting the needs of the fast-growing elder population,  but it is through the efforts of organizations such as this and many others, collaborating with passionate-life minded people that we have a future for elders that can usher in new opportunities for personal growth, improved care, and certainly a life worth living.  Thank you to the leaders at Pioneer Network for the hard work you do every day to improve the lives of our elders and those who serve them.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and their caregivers.  Pam is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® Simulation Experience and other innovative dementia programs.  Pam may be reached at pam@AGEucate.com.

 

 

Are we Confusing Life Enrichment with Activities in Dementia Care?

What exactly is the meaning of Life Enrichment?  

Quite simply, Life Enrichment it is the act of bringing purpose and joy to persons living with memory loss. As dementia progresses, engaging in a life skill or routine task becomes increasingly challenging, and seniors need the support of someone who can adapt activities so they can still feel a sense of accomplishment, success and enjoyment.

How do Activities differ?

In senior care,  Activities are the entertainment, planned events, exercise classes etc. that are posted on weekly and monthly charts for anyone who is able to join in.

So, the question then is, are we too often confusing Life Enrichment with Activities?   

Too often, the answer is yes.  These are not the same, although they often intersect.  Person-centered or resident-centered care models must focus on the individual (life enrichment), as opposed to the whole (activities).    While activities are important to everyone living with dementia, those activities must bring purpose and joy to the individual, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

When we fulfill the purpose, joy, accomplishment needs of an individual, we have a life enrichment model.  For each person, that may or may not coincide with the activities that are offered to all the residents.

Digging Deeper into Life Enrichment

The needs of persons living with dementia change, sometimes daily or even hourly.  Resident-centered care starts with understanding who they are now,  and their life story, allowing us to capture the who, what, why, when and how of their life.  Why is this so critical? Those long-ago snapshots allow us opportunities to engage with that person’s memories that are still intact.  Persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will most likely retain those distant memories of their younger years while short-term memories fade.

When we take the time to dig deeper,  we discover the person they once were – and still are!  Let’s look at an example:

Kate came into memory care with mid-stage dementia.  She was listless and had no interest in taking part in the Activities that were offered daily.  On the surface, you would think Kate was depressed and had no interest at all.  After a life history assessment and talking with her family, the staff learned that Kate was a landscape architect, master gardener, and avid hiker!  No one would have guessed coming in that Kate had such an interesting career and such knowledge and passion for gardening.

What might life enrichment look like for Kate?  Spending time in the community’s outdoor garden, possibly taking part in garden activities with assistance, certainly photos of projects that she designed as a young architect would capture memories and spark conversation.  How about finding out where some of her hiking adventures were and finding  National Geographic and Travel shows that she might engage with?  Perhaps your community hasVirtual Reality programming in place.  There are tremendous products now that literally transform life experiences for persons with dementia. A memory basket of gardening items, tools that she used in her career and personal photos of her gardens, hiking adventures and certainly her projects could all be kept in a place where staff and families can access easily to engage in quality time together.

Kate may not find any interest in the Activities offered, but that doesn’t mean Life Enrichment has been sacrificed.  For Kate, what gives her purpose, joy, and feelings of accomplishment are not found in the activities area.  That’s okay!  We’ve found the sparks with Kate, and maybe our activities can incorporate some of her needs, but we are certainly not relying on our Activities program to provide Life Enrichment to her as an individual.

For more information on reminiscence training and other innovative dementia programs, please visit http://www.AGEucate.com

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, the creator of the Dementia Live® simulation experience, and Flashback™️ Reminiscence Training.  She is a passionate advocate for aging adults and those who serve them.  Pam may be contacted at pam@AGEucate.com