Tag Archives: dementia 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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Why Competency-Based Training Improves Dementia Care

There is an urgent need to equip caregivers to better respond to and care for persons living with dementia.  Traditional training models have focused on the number of classroom hours an individual must spend in training, assuming that a person who completes the required training hours is ready to work successfully with people living with dementia.  The shift to competency-based training improves dementia care by focusing on mastery of tasks and tools that are learned.

Competency-based learning empowers learners to focus on mastery of valuable skills and knowledge and learn by practicing.  This can be valuable for direct care staff in applying techniques, tools and other skills with other staff and their care receivers.

General benefits of competency-based training include:

  • Greater understanding of learning outcomes by applying skills taught.
  • Increased  retention and higher probability that what is taught will be applied
  • Learners’ improved ability to recognize, manage, and continuously build upon their own competencies and evidence of learning
  • Employers’ improved ability to track competencies and achievements

With growing focus on person-centered practices in dementia care, staff may gain knowledge training, but if it is not applied and practiced, the risk of “losing” the skills increases.  Competency-based training includes assessments on whether a person has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities required to work with individuals with dementia;  understand how to support their dignity and individuality, and can apply his or her training to the unique needs of persons living with dementia.

We face challenges in equipping our workforce to deal with the unique needs of those living with dementia.  As this number increases drastically,  practical, feasible and effective tools for caregivers is urgently needed.  They must be provided with more real-life training before they are asked to help people living with dementia and their families.

Competency-based dementia training should be integrated into every elder care providers’ ongoing training program.

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

http://www.AGEucate.com

Caregiver Burnout: What to Look for and How to Help

burnout - ngste CLosing sleep, poor eating habits, irritability or short tempered – these symptoms may start small and snowball quickly into what is referred to as caregiver burnout.   Professionals and families need to know what to look for and how to help caregivers.  It’s a serious matter and growing, as more families are caring for their loved ones at home with little or no help.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.  Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able to do – either physically, emotionally or financially.

Guilt is a huge problem with caregivers, especially those who are caring for someone with dementia or other chronic illness.  As I reflect on my many years caring for my parents, I think guilt was the over riding struggle.  Like most caregivers, I felt guilty when I was not spending time with my parents, and when I was caring for them I felt guilty that I wasn’t with my children and husband.  It was a constant balancing act – and more than often I felt that I was on the low end of the teeter totter.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to symptoms of stress and depression:  They may include:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and social activities
  • Irritability
  • Altered eating patterns
  • Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs
  • Frequent headaches or sudden onset of back pain
  • Impatience
  • Loss of compassion
  • Overreacting to criticism or commonplace accidents
  • Resenting the care recipient and/or situation
  • Wishing to “have the whole thing over with”
  • Feeling trapped
  • High levels of fear and anxiety

Playing the “if only games; saying over and over “if only this would happen; or “if only this hadn’t happened”

It is critically important that senior care professionals understand what to look for when they are talking with families.  Symptoms may start slowly but can quickly snowball into a serious situation. Protecting our older adults from neglect and abuse means a watchful eye and being able to guide families with support and help the need.

A few sources for help and assistance are:

      • Social workers
      • Faith based counselors
      • Family Caregiver Support Groups
      • Area Agencies on Aging (hotline 800-963-5337) (www.n4A.org)
      • Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900) (www.alz.org)
      • National Elder Abuse hotline (800-677-1116)

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www.ncea.acl.gov

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Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and creator Dementia Live™️ experience, helping caregivers worldwide to better understand dementia and aging, transforming professional and family caregiver’s ability to better care for our older adults.  

www.AGEucate.com