Tag Archives: Dementia Live®Training

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.

I Just WISH I Could UNDERSTAND what Mom is going through…

blackboard against red barn wood

Understanding someone with dementia is not easy.  What are they thinking?  How are they feeling?  Why are they acting the way they do?  These are fundamental questions that perplex professionals and quite simply leave families feeling confused, angry, guilty and helpless.

I have been a family caregiver and moved into the aging and dementia training space to help older adults and the growing numbers of families and professionals who are serving them.  Because I experienced for myself the helplessness that caregivers feel, I can relate well to family members who feel isolated, lost and desperately seeking answers.   Because I was a family member seeking help I know how little was out there 20 years ago.  Guess what?  There is still not enough support out there for families.  We’ve come a long way, but because the numbers of caregivers have swelled so quickly, this will remain a huge challenge in the years to come. Educating, supporting and providing resources for family members who are caring for aging adults, especially those who are living with dementia, is all of our jobs.

Short of a soapbox moment,  we need to get back to basics when it comes to dementia education.  We need to provide powerful, effective and feasible means to deliver education that will help professionals and families in understanding someone with dementia.  We must start with a foundational tool.

Our partner providers, those in elder care communities, home care, hospice, hospitals, community-based organizations, and others are consistently sharing with me their challenges – how to help families who are most often in crisis when they seek their services.   My discussions with leaders across the spectrum of care share a common theme.  Most, and I venture to say that is over 90% of families who are caring for someone with dementia, are in crisis when they transition to home care, an elder care community or reach out to a community-based agency for help. This is an alarming number of people who are exhausted, experiencing caregiver burnout –  physically, emotionally and spiritually, and dealing with overwhelming guilt, anger and hopelessness.

Back to basics in dementia education is greatly needed.  A tool that allows a family and professional to experience what their loved one is struggling with, and to then have someone to talk to that can walk them through the “why” of it all is enormously beneficial.  It’s experiential training at its core.  Stepping into their world for just a moment to allow caregivers to understand mom, or dad, husband, wife, resident or client is HUGE.

Quality education does not have to be complex.  In fact, simple, effective and feasible should be in the mind of everyone who leads education and training.  The next questions should be asked – is this providing a tool?  We need applicable tools that we can walk away with and immediately make changes in how we care for another person.  And these tools should not only improve the quality of life of the person we are caring for but reduce caregivers stress and make their jobs as care partners easier and more rewarding.

In short, we need strong foundational tools that are proven,  successful and work for everyone – from care providers, to their staff and to the families and residents/patients/clients they serve.

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® Simulation and Empowerment Experience being embraced by caregivers worldwide.

 

 

 

Communication Skills Training Improves Dementia Care

Caring for people with dementia requires specialized communication skills training.  Unfortunately, healthcare professionals and family caregivers often receive little training to enable them to meet the communicative needs of people with dementia.

Research has shown that communication skills training in dementia care significantly improves the quality of life and well being of people with dementia and increases positive interactions in various care settings. Communication skills training shows significant impact on professional and family caregivers’ communication skills, competencies, and knowledge.

As we look at the look at the vast growth taking place across the spectrum of those serving older adults,  in addition to the health and long-term care fields.  Communication skills training is being implemented by EMS professionals, Social Work, Case Management, Chaplains and Volunteer workers and to the broader community of those serving older adults in a wide variety of capacities.  Financial advisors, insurance personnel, retail, and banking are all seeing a rising need for communication skills training to better serve their older adult customer base that often is living with dementia or other cognitive impairments.

Key qualities for those directly serving the elderly and aging populations are

1. communication skills

2. compassion

3. physical stamina.

With the growing demand for in-home care services, home health aides and certified nursing assistants (CNAs),  communications skills training is more important than ever so they are well prepared to care for the high percentage of people living with dementia.  These are high demand professions and one of the fastest growing occupations projected.  Already, in many areas of the US and around the world, shortages and the consequences of these staffing challenges are affecting the quality of care.

Quality communication skills training, starting with awareness and empathy training will better prepare our health care teams, retailers,  legal and financial advisors, faith communities and first responders to face the already ballooning numbers of aging adults who deserve better care and certainly more respect here and around the globe.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Pam is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live® awareness and simulation training program.  

http://www.AGEucate.com

 

Why YOUR City Needs to become Dementia Friendly

I’m honored to be part of the exciting Dementia Friendly Fort Worth initiative.  Not only are we the first major city in Texas to undertake this effort, but one of the largest cities in the United States.  We are part of Dementia Friendly America (DFA), which is a multi-sector collaborative on a mission to foster “dementia friendly” communities across the nation.

DFA is the work of over 35 national, leading organizations, the Dementia Friendly America initiative is catalyzing a movement to more effectively support and serve those across America who are living with dementia and their family and friend care partners. The lead organizations represent all sectors of the community and are collectively leveraging their national reach to activate their local affiliates, members, and branches to convene, participate in and support dementia friendly community efforts at a local level.

Dementia Friendly Fort Worth is organized to educate people in all sectors of the community about dementia, to assist them in becoming dementia friendly and to support and care for those living with dementia and their care partners.

The program offers:

  • Education opportunities for all persons to increase awareness and understanding of dementia
  • Help in the development of better services for persons living with dementia and their care partners
  • Guidance to all sectors of the community to become dementia friendly in their day to day interactions with persons living with dementia
  • Encouragement and support practices and opportunities that enrich the lives of persons living with dementia and their care partners.

Why be a Dementia Friendly city?  There are more than 120 types of dementia, for which there is currently no cure.  More than 60% of these individuals live in your neighborhood and use the businesses and services in your community.   Currently, there are over 10 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.  This number is expected to grow drastically in the years ahead.  The massive group of baby boomers (10,000 a day turning 65) is living longer, and dementia occurrence increases with age.  A person who is 65 has a 1 in 10 chance of having dementia and that rises to a 1 in 3 chance for someone 85.  The fastest growing segment of our population are those 85 and over.

According to the Dementia Friendly Toolkit Overview, communities are encouraged to progress through four phases as they journey to become dementia friendly: Convene, Engage, Analyze, and Act.  In Fort Worth, we have created sector groups which are defining standards for various business groups to be certified as dementia friendly, using the toolkit from Dementia Friendly America.

In just 4 months, leaders from faith communities, long-term care, hospitals, businesses, Alzheimer’s Association, Area Agencies on Aging and others have come together to move forward with outlining initiatives and plans to reach out to the greater Fort Worth community.  It’s very exciting to see the stakeholders investing in this project, including the FW Mayor and city council.  Everyone sees the urgent need to address the needs of those living with dementia and their care partners.

Funding for dementia friendly projects comes from donations from individuals, companies, organization, and foundations which have a desire to make a difference in the lives of those living with dementia.  First United Methodist Fort Worth was the catalyst to provide important seed money for this project, and other are quickly joining them.  It’s definitely a model of grassroots efforts and the passion of hundreds of people from virtually every sector of the community.

For more information on how to become a dementia-friendly city http://dfaamerica.org.   

 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 internationally recognized Dementia Live® program, a transformational experience, and training to help care partners understand life with dementia.  Dementia Live is an educational outreach program of the Dementia Friendly initiatives in Fort Worth and Grayslake, Illinois.