Memory loss is one of the leading health concerns facing America today. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.7 million adults in the United States live with the disease, while it's estimated this number will reach 14 million by 2050. Indeed, an American develops Alzheimer's disease every 65 second. Though memory loss conditions extend beyond the disease itself, the rate of incidence points to the scope of the overall problem as the population ages.
The issue of memory loss is perhaps nowhere better understood and appreciated than in retirement and assisted living communities. Caring for residents who have experienced cognitive decline and those who exhibit onset symptoms is among the most crucial responsibilities that staff and communities undertake.
That's why Edgewood Healthcare takes a comprehensive approach to educating employees on memory loss. Getting them as prepared and knowledgeable as possible translates into higher quality care and attention given to residents.
This commitment to providing the best service is a cornerstone of Edgewood Healthcare's mission, and a reason why we recently overhauled our training program to create a more unified and immersive experience designed to benefit both staff and residents.
Legacy Memory Care program standardizes training
Instead of building a brand new training regimen from the ground up, Edgewood decided to instead expand existing lessons and then standardize them across all locations. Where once each unique community tended to decide how to train staff, under the Legacy Memory Care program, all employees everywhere have access to the same robust training materials. The upgrade centralized and standardized resources, which replaced the rather fragmented nature of before.
Comprising eight sections, the Legacy Memory Care program includes classroom and experiential learning for employees on the many different levels and effects of memory loss, allowing them to understand the issue across the continuum of the disease. Those eight sections are:
- An introduction to Alzheimer's disease and related dementia, which includes myth busting and introduction to core Edgewood values.
- Understanding brain changes in dementia, which reviews stages of memory loss and the effect on physical and mental health.
- Respecting the humanity of the person, which trains employees on proper interactions and what not to do.
- Adapting our methods of communications, which teaches strategies for effectively and clearly engaging residents with memory loss.
- Rethinking our approach to activities of daily life, which address the fact each resident is his or her own self, and needs enrichment and support specific to them.
- Understanding why challenging behaviors occur, which imparts effective problem-solving techniques to deal with side effects and risks of dementia.
- Helping staff understand and respond to families, which directs staff on how to familiarize themselves with memory loss, as well as how to help families do the same.
- Caring for yourself so you can care for others, which reminds staff that their own mental well-being is important and gives some coping mechanisms.
Each module includes a discussion, PowerPoints, videos, reading material and a final quiz to ensure learning objectives were met. In all, it represents a powerful foundation of training and education that's been assembled to ensure consistency and competency across all Edgewood communities and employees.
So far, the Legacy Memory Care program has offered the positive effect imagined.
"The interactive training helps keep the attention of employees and gives them the opportunity to share or listen to personal and professional experiences," said Hatti Olson, Executive Assistant and member of the task force originally assigned to assess memory loss training and revamp the structure. "It's a really great and collaborative way to learn," continued Olson.
Residents and employees benefit alike
While employees are the ones to go through the training, they are not the only beneficiaries, as everything staff learn is then used to ensure better caregiving and resident engagement. The more that can be understood about memory loss, the more that can be done to address it and serve residents with a high quality of life, as well as ensure families have tools for understanding and making the most of the situation.
"If we're not providing training, then we're not doing the best we can to ensure residents get the best possible care," Ashley Magner, corporate life enrichment director, says.
In some cases, employees not familiar with memory loss or caring for residents experiencing such cognitive decline may need to fill in for positions that put them in such settings. Without training, neither employee nor resident is in the best position to benefit. Other staff may transition between communities and not experience the same training expectations. These, and other examples, underscore the importance of ensuring all staff have a knowledge base to draw on.
"It's important our employees feel confident in their job, also that they feel valued by us, they need to feel empowered enough to take on the daily challenges of dealing with dementia, and the Legacy Memory Care program helps accomplish that," Magner says.
As the program is rolled out across the Edgewood universe (starting with new hires and ideally including all existing employees by 2018's end), residents and staff will begin to see the impacts that robust training provides.