Tag Archives: Dementia Live®Training

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.  

The Fear of Dementia and How We Must Redirect our Thinking

I had a few “Aha” moments this past weekend that made me realize just how prevalent the fear of dementia is in our society,  and how we must redirect our thinking in order to transform how we look at Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

There are two sides from which this fear is bubbling.  The first is the 10,000 boomers a day who are turning 65, often seeing their parents or other loved ones cognitive decline and living with a halo of terror that this might happen to them.  The other is fear of the unknown by caregivers, families, and society.  By this I mean the fear of how to communicate with some who has dementia, the fear of caring for them properly, fear of their behaviors.

One of my “Aha” moments this weekend was listening to a couple – care partners – both talking about their journey with dementia.  The husband who is living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) talked about his lifestyle.  He exercised,  was physically active, maintained a healthy weight and diet, had a college degree, maintained strong social connections.  He checked off everything on the list that we are told may stave off dementia.  Yet he was diagnosed in his 60s with Alzheimer’s disease.  Living now 8 years with AD, he spoke to a crowd and with the help of notes and a few small prompts from his wife communicated his heartwarming story and message about still living life and being able to live it with joy.

I’m one of the baby boomers who witnessed two parents with dementia – one from Alzheimer’s Disease and another from Parkinson’s Disease.  My journey certainly did change my life from caregiver to activist.  I suppose there are times when I think about what my future could hold, but in the meantime – I do all I can to take care of myself.  I pay attention to my physical, emotional and spiritual health and all that encompasses those goals.  My mission is to help other caregivers through their journey from fear to transformation.  While it’s not easy, I am living proof that it can be done, and I’ve seen hundreds and thousands of others do the same.  Facing their fear by redirecting their thoughts and actions.

The other fear is one that is even broader, more serious to society’s acceptance of dementia, and requires urgent attention from stakeholders in this arena.  That is the fear of the unknown.  My other “Aha” moment this past weekend was in talking to the Senior Adult director at my church.  She told me how her well-meaning volunteers visit members of the church in care facilities and those who are home-centered.  They often become frustrated because they don’t know what to say or how to talk with someone who has cognitive decline.  Sadly, because they don’t have the tools to overcome their fear they chose to serve in another ministry.

Family and professional caregivers, employers, those who serve in retail, banking, airports, financial and insurance services, customer service industries need dementia awareness training and even more so, need to be empowered with tools to better understand, communicate and compassionately guide and care for the explosive growth of persons living with dementia.

Fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen.  Awareness, education, and training can overcome fear.

I’m thankful for being a part of this movement to help others transform thoughts, feelings, and actions about and for those living with dementia.  By doing so, my concerns about my future with or without dementia are thwarted by the fact that I am confident that the future will continue to improve for those living dementia, their care partners,  families, and most importantly society’s stigma about dementia will be transformed.

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 acclaimed Dementia Live® Simulation Education and Training Program.  

www.AGEucate.com