Keep In Mind Blog


Dementia Education; Return on Investment is Greater than the Alternative

Training Sign

Dementia education and on-going training is an investment often overlooked.
The results can be deadly. 

I groaned aloud with disgust this morning as I listened to the news report of yet another unfortunate death of someone with Dementia.

For the second time in less than a week, a media outlet detailed the death of a person with Dementia that should raise more questions while demanding answers. The increase of these stories is, exposing a gaping hole in an industry that has gone unnoticed and unrecognized for far too long. These deadly results may be avoided if those in caregiving positions were given more robust Dementia training and on-going education. But, is anyone paying attention? Who is taking a stand against the lack of caregiving training and accountability of the leaders in charge?

Those of us on the inside of Dementia care know; the industry standard for Dementia ‘training’ is not even close to what the consumers believe it to be. Most families who make the heart wrenching decision to move their loved one into a long term care setting often won’t even ask about the staff training or the credentials of the leadership team.

Consider this; if you needed a haircut would you go to the post office? If you wanted to re-pave your driveway would you call a plumber? If you were seeking a doggy daycare for your beloved pooch, would you leave them with a taxidermist? No? Why Not?

Is it because you seek out experts to perform these services? Do you want a qualified and certified professional to cut your hair, to pave your driveway and to watch your family pet? Do you look for a Doctor, with credentials and expertise? Do you relentlessly read the reviews of restaurants, movies and healthclubs; before you spend your money?

Yet, why don’t we demand this same level of expertise of those responsible for montioring
our most vulnerable citizens with Dementia?

Why don’t the consumers who need long term care for their person with Dementia relentlessly read the reviews and research the leaders of the building, before they move their loved one in? What is wrong with a society that takes more time investigating a pet-sitter for their family dog than a caregiver of their parent, spouse, relative or friend?

It’s not my intent to place blame on the consumer; for the lack of proper caregiver education and training for professionals in long term care. However, if nearly 14 years of experience from the frontlines to the boardrooms of Senior Living has taught me one thing, it’s this: don’t expect the leaders and the operators to do the right thing, because it’s the noble thing to do.

Unless the consumers, family members and advocates rise up and demand better service, better training and on-going education; the investors of the property and the executive leaders inside the buildings often cut corners in staff education. And, the results are higher staff turnover which leads to mistakes in caregiving, unhappy families and potential unwanted incidents with residents.

Without public outcry for better standards, regulations and oversight; we’ll continue to hear the tragic stories of the unintended aftermath. Today, it’s the 88 year old man in Wisconsin who left the Assisted Living without supervision and was found dying in the cold a mere one hundred yards away from the building. Last week, it was a late night fight between two roommates with advanced Dementia in Colorado, resulting in ones death and the other being arrested. Just the thought of someone with advancing Dementia being questioned by police then taken away in a squad car should rattle your soul to the core.

During a recent interview, I made the observation that “society gets more worked up if a family pet is left in a car with the windows rolled up in the summer heat than we do about the lack of educational support inside Dementia care facilities.” That comment garnered a chuckle from those that heard me. However if you truly analyze that statement it should bring a tear to your eye.

1 in 8 people aged 65 and older have some form of Dementia. 1 in 3 aged 85 and older have it. The silver tsunami casceding over our society promises to include higher rates of those with cognitive decline. Yet, why are so many still painfully ignorant about this growing health crisis? If you believe it’s normal to have lapses in memory as you age or if you don’t know the difference between the words Alzheimer’s and Dementia, you may need to do a Google search.

Currently, 80% of all Dementia care is delivered by family and close friends in a home setting. Just 20% of those with Dementia move into long term care settings. Yet, even with that share of the ‘market’ the professionals still have significant failure in quality assurance as it pertains to on-going education. Too often, when an employee is hired; the extent of their Dementia training is to watch a one hour video sitting alone in a desolate office then sign their name to the ‘training’ documnet that gets placed in their personnel file.  Sure, many states require more hours of instruction and sometimes companies actually make the attempt to get a program in place. But, too often the on-going education gets seriously watered down when there isn’t a member of leadership or an expert delivering the training. Instead, the powerpoint slides get printed out on the black and white copy machine and left for the frontline staff to read then sign their initials, indicating they’ve completed the ‘education’.

And, if you think this lack of training only has negative impact on those inside long term care; think again. What becomes of the 80% who are still living in their houses in our towns and neighborhoods? With many forms of Dementia, a person can live successfully for years within the community at large. Yet, do we have Dementia Friendly banks, groceries, restaraunts and shops? Are police trained to know the difference between someone struggling with cognitive decline and a deranged person with criminal intent?

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of taking your loved one with Dementia to a hospital, you know all-too-well what a nightmare that is. Hospitals have long known how ill-equipped they are to humanely manage those with Dementia; yet trying to get them to change their ‘way’ of doing business is an exercise in futility that actually is a sad and bitter joke amongst those of us who are Dementia advocates.

Investing in Dementia training and on-going education may have an impact on the bottom line of the ledger right now; but that price pales in comparison to the potential lawsuits that families can file after the unneccessary death of their loved one. Or, the staff turnover that is often reported as up to 110% within healthcare and long term care environments. This results in many more dollars spent in recruiting a new-hire and covering the overtime costs for those who must fill the gaps. Not to mention the fines that must be paid when the state issues citations; resulting in unwanted additional monitoring and typically negative PR (like the stories cited above).

Yes folks, it comes down to this; investing in Dementia education will yield a higher rate of return. Unfortunately when I make statements like; “It’s the right thing to do” or “It’s what’s best for the person with Dementia” the ‘eye roll’ of insensitivity is palpable. Therefore, I’ve become a greater student of the financial end of the business and it’s impact on outcomes.

The investors and the decision makers respond better to numbers that impact their bottom line.  And, as painful as that is for a ‘do-gooder’ like me; I choose to overlook their reasoning as long as the end result is an educated caregiving workforce that is empowered and supported to deliver better care and services to our citizens with Dementia.

Got a comment? A story to share? You input is appreciated. Together we are stronger and your words may benefit others. 

** stats cited from the 2013 & 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report(s).

Dementia Solutions Expert & President of Keep In Mind, Inc. specializing in holistic Dementia care solutions. An engaging Keynote presenter, audiences applaud Belks passion for advocacy and common sense care solutions. She's the author of the 360 Dementia Care Operational manual for professional providers. And she's developed the workplace wellness initiative; Caregiving 411, for those who balance care & career. Recognized for implementing large-scale programs for those with Dementia; She's developed Fitness with Friends, Memory Magz & Memory Mealz.

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