Home care workers need more training in dementia care: PHI brief

Home care workers need deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and states can take be proactive in creating a better trained workforce, says PHI, a national organization representing the direct-care workforce.

Additional training in how the disease progresses, how it affects communication and how to understand verbal cues and behaviors would greatly improve the quality of care home care workers can provide, explains a new PHI policy brief aimed at state policymakers. “Training home care workers on effective communication is especially important, since a person with dementia often communicates in ways that might not be intuitive, especially in mid to late stages of the disease. They might not be able to verbally express their concerns (such as pain, constipation, hunger, or thirst) and instead communicate through behaviors such as anxiety, agitation, aggression, and depression,” the brief states.

The home care workforce includes health aides and personal care aides who assist with ADLs. Many senior care organizations provide home care as transitional service for discharged skilled nursing residents or partner with third-party agencies that provide a range of services as an extension to care in a professional setting or as a stop-gap to moving to a higher care level.

The incongruity is clear: Even though almost one in three home care agency clients has some level of cognitive decline, only 13 states have dementia training requirements for home care workers.

Technology and innovation hold potential for improving the workforce, including online training modules and specialized training that focus on person-centered dementia care and specialized skill sets.

In a call to action for states, the PHI brief makes five recommendations to state policymakers for the improvement of dementia training among the workforce:

  1. Build public awareness about the growing need for home care for people with dementia and their families
  2. Invest in home care workers so they are better able to support people with dementia and their families
  3. Develop and implement training programs for home care workers to provide effective support and services for individuals with dementia
  4. Strengthen state training requirements to ensure home care workers can support people with dementia and their caregivers
  5. Fund and test innovations in the areas of technology and peer mentoring that can improve home care for people with dementia

Training could become the differentiator in a competitive industry charged with serving those with cognitive decline. “(A) person with dementia will have unique needs at different stages of the disease, and a home care worker should be trained to address those needs,” the PHI brief states. “Research shows that proper care for people with dementia can improve their quality of life and avoid or reduce the need for medications. In contrast, research shows that a lack of proper training can lead to a more challenging situation for the worker, the client, and the family.”

Read the entire PHI policy brief here.

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