CaringKind Offers Practical Training for Family and Professional Caregivers

By Amy Torres,
Director of Training

Over the past year, CaringKind’s training department has trained 500 family members, friends and professional caregivers, whose difficult jobs were made easier with their new skills and resources. The Family Caregiver Workshop is a 10-hr training where family and friends assisting a person with dementia learn how best to communicate with person with dementia and manage challenging behaviors that may arise over the course of the person’s illness. In addition to building knowledge, participants are connected to other CaringKind services to ensure they are receiving the support they need to tackle the difficult job of caregiving. The Dementia Care Training for Professional Caregivers (DCTPC) is a 45-hr training for home health aides, certified nursing assistants, personal companions and other paid caregivers. Through this program, participants build on their knowledge of dementia and grow their professional skill set to better care for clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Many that register for CaringKind’s Family Caregiver Workshop, do so with the intention of learning how to better manage one or two challenging behaviors that the person with dementia may demonstrate. Most people with dementia experience a range of mild behavioral changes, such as repetition or eating without utensils. However, at some point, more severe behavioral changes may manifest, such as wandering or engaging in instances of physical aggression. At the beginning of a workshop, participants are often so overwhelmed and distraught they express the desire for a quick solution - an intervention that will immediately put a stop to the behavior. However, the workshop builds on the concept that the behaviors people with dementia exhibit change throughout the course of the person’s illness. We promote the concept of behavioral management as a method to lessen the negative impact these difficult behaviors can have on caregivers.

In a recent Family Caregiver Workshop, the daughter and primary caregiver of a Mother with Alzheimer’s disease expressed the changes in her mother’s behavior were “tearing her family apart.” Once a week, she and her siblings connected by gathering for a pot luck. Unlike before, now their Mother began having difficulties staying seated during the meal, couldn’t tolerate socializing with her family, and would become agitated, grasp at food on other people’s plates and began raising her voice and requesting that everyone leave. This behavior continued over the course of several months so that family pot luck dinners were no longer possible.

After the daughter’s time in the workshop and practicing the techniques in communication portion of the workshop, she then became able to coach her family on how best to speak to her mother and how to include her in this bonding time. Family members had conversation that relied on the person with dementia’s long term-memory and made it a point to speak one at a time so as not to overwhelm their Mother. They never corrected her if she did something a bit differently. During the daughter’s last session, she expressed how the workshop gave her back family dinners in such a meaningful way that made not only her family happy but made her mother feel included again.

One of the concepts discussed in the Dementia Care Training Program for Professional Caregivers (DCTPC) is the importance of learning the background and preferences of the person you are helping. Often, people with more progressed dementia cannot self-report information about their history or preferences. Professional caregivers must turn to other resources to piece together the person with dementias preferences, what they find meaningful and comforting. A recent DCTPC participant expressed her concern over being able to assist her new client who seemingly had very little language available. Over the course of several weeks, she had only heard her client speak a handful of times.

As the training progressed, she was encouraged to interview all the visitors her client received and fill out the questionnaire provided to her during training. This questionnaire encourages participants to discover more about the person with dementia - their work and family histories, hobbies, past daily routines as well as how their preferences may have changed or been impacted by their illness. Armed with information about her client’s history, she began to bring up topics her client was familiar with, specifically baseball which she discovered had been her client’s life-long hobby. After a few attempts, her client began responding to her inquiries regarding baseball players and their histories. The caregiver noticed that once her client began speaking, he was able to articulate thoughts not only about baseball but other topics and preferences as well, including his grandchildren, what he preferred to eat and when he would like to go for a walk. She noticed that in order to begin interacting with her client, she needed to begin a conversation about his topic of interests. The caregiver expressed how her confidence and expertise had grown over her time in the program.

As you can see, our training programs help you understand and navigate the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving. We provide knowledge and skills to help you more successfully care for someone with dementia and take care of yourself. If you would like to register for any of our free training programs, please contact our 24-Hour Helpline at 646-744-2945.

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