Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Caregiver Support for Understanding and Coping with Dementia

No one can deny, dealing with dementia is a challenge on all fronts. It's challenging for the individual suffering from it, for their family members and for the staff and caregivers who choose to play supporting roles for those with the condition. Certified coping and stress-management coach and 30-year occupational therapy assistant Roberta Stack has created a helpful support system and educational program around coping strategies to help those who support individuals with dementia.

"[I educate] caregivers and staff working with the elderly," said Roberta, "specifically [those with] dementia. I also try to work with caregivers and staff--especially social workers--on coping skills, coping [with being] a caregiver, coping with any losses, stress management techniques to be able to cope better. [I offer] dementia training to try to [help staff and caregivers] face some of the fears that [they] have… things you don't know, things you don't know how to deal with, facing those fears and giving them some idea of how to help individuals with dementia[.]"

Better Understanding Dementia

Many people aren't clear about what exactly dementia is and how varied it can be in its expression among those who suffer from it. People think of dementia and they think of Alzheimer's. While Alzheimer's certainly is a form of dementia, it is not by any means the only form.

"A lot of people hear the word dementia and they think it's always Alzheimer's," Roberta said. "There are so many different types of dementia, and there's reversible and irreversible. We get a lot of residents who start forgetting things and they have signs of dementia. Well, it could be a urinary tract infection. It could be that they're dehydrated. It could be medication causing it. It could be a brain tumor that could be removed and they could be fine. Then there are irreversible types of dementia like Alzheimer's [or] like Lewy Body, which is a very quick type of dementia. There are so many kinds, and they don't always know what kind it is, and technically you can't really diagnose it until after death."

Since some forms of dementia are temporary and curable, Roberta highly recommends that people not take an initial diagnosis at face value. "You want to exhaust all possible means of it not being irreversible [dementia]," she asserted. "Are they dehydrated? Is their diet okay? Do they have a UTI? Is there something going on? [Get assessments] to make sure that it isn't some type of reversible [dementia.]"

Facilitating a Change

Unfortunately, the eldercare industry has a notoriously high turnover rate for employees. According to a 2013 report produced by the American Health Care Association, the national turnover rate for skilled nursing facilities was about 44%, while the turnover for CNAs in particular was about 52%. Assisted living rates were slightly lower at about 32%. Roberta believes this is largely because people haven't received proper training and education to best navigate particularly challenging cases, such as dementia.

"There is a large turnover… and I feel, honestly, it's lack of education. Staff doesn't always know how to deal with, especially again, people with dementia and it's very frustrating. … You can't rationalize with someone with dementia as you would with the average person on the street. It's very stressful. It's a stressful job and people are getting burned out. That's why I'm trying to educate them on what [they] can do to make working with these people easier and more rewarding for [all involved], but also keeping [themselves] healthy in the meantime so that, again, [they] can take better care of [those with dementia]. … We're starting to see as we're educating staff that they're learning techniques that they're saying are actually helping release some of that tension, and we're hoping that the turnover gets to be a little lower and a little lower… so there will be more continuity of care."


To learn more about Roberta Stack's work or to contact her directly, you may visit her on the web at www.RobertaStack.com or reach her by phone at 440-759-9178.

Here at HandyPro, we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help you make your home a home for life, visit us at www.StayAtHomeModificationsINC.com or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

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