Mandatory Dementia Training
I recently was looking for a good read at the library -- anything that would pique my interest and whisk me into a riveting story that related to my life in no way. As it turned out, I passed on the gritty crime fiction novels and historical fiction (my fave!) and picked up a book on caregiving for people with dementia.
I was immediately hooked as I began to read the no-nonsense approach techniques for caring and treating family members or "clients" with this diagnosis. A close friend (also a PTA) called me on 8:30 a.m. that following Sunday, to find me power-reading through this book, only to chuckle that she was "impressed with my commitment" -- to my patients.
I'm not touting that this book is the "definitive text" on managing difficult patients with dementia -- but I do feel that I was eager to learn more about the disease process and approaches that will enable myself and the patient to have a successful therapy session. Currently half the patients in my caseload live on a secured dementia unit. Having more of a knowledge base on this diagnosis and skills to effectively communicate is pivotal for increasing their safety and quality of life.
When I arrived back to the secured unit of the facility on Monday morning, my first impressions were of how "non-effectively" the aide, nursing and housekeeping staff were communicating with the residents. The most glaring example being how people with dementia will "mirror" the emotions of their caregivers. If a CNA becomes angry and frustrated, that person will find the patient expressing the same behavior in response.
In a discussion with my rehab colleagues later, and citing the previous interaction I witnessed with the aide and patient, we were all in agreement that all staff should receive mandatory dementia training. I'm certainly no expert because I read one book on the subject, but I do feel more informed and prepared to care for my patients.
If staff, along with myself, received monthly or even yearly in-service training, we would all benefit -- but especially the patients. As a therapist in a long-term care facility with a specific secured dementia unit, I feel obligated to seek continuing education opportunities to learn more about dementia. However, for the caregiver staff who aren't expected to seek supplemental education -- mandatory dementia training should be offered.