Those who have cared for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia know that it can be a confusing, frustrating and sometimes frightening experience. As with so many of the things about daily life that dementia can turn upside down, the traditional dynamics of caregiving also are challenged. We have to re-learn how to engage, respond and serve those in our care.

These challenges don’t just apply to family caregivers – professionals are in new territory, as well. As we look at the growing need across the state and nation, a critical question surfaces:

Do professional caregivers have the knowledge and skills they need to effectively serve the growing number of people with dementia?

That question is exactly what led Aging Services of Minnesota to partner last year with the Alzheimer’s Association – MN/ND Chapter to develop a training program that is the first of its kind in the nation, pairing direct care providers with the Alzheimer’s Association and leading researchers and practitioners in the field of dementia care.

In its first year, approximately 225 caregivers from across the state participated in the Dementia Care Certificate program. They include professionals in a wide variety of roles, including direct caregivers, dementia program directors, directors of nursing, social workers, activities coordinators, housing managers and administrators. Participants come from a wide variety of aging services settings – including home care, adult day care, assisted living/housing-with-services and care centers.

The program is impressive – but this isn’t just about a program, it’s about the impact this training will have on the lives of thousands of Minnesotans, their families and the caregivers who serve older adults.

Here’s what this training will mean to them:

  • Caregivers will have the skills they need to interpret complex behavior signals – as a result, they will be more confident, effective and satisfied in their roles
  • More confident and effective caregivers will lead to better care and outcomes for the people they serve
  • Individuals with dementia, their families and caregivers will experience lower stress and anxiety because they have the skills they need to navigate challenging situations
  • People with dementia are able to live safely in environments specifically designed to minimize factors that can increase agitation
  • Family members feel more confident about the care their loved ones are receiving, knowing that caregivers are specially trained to deal with difficult circumstances and respond to certain signals
  • Family caregivers develop new skills, in addition to learning about important ways to maintain their own health and safety as caregivers

This new program is just one important way Minnesota’s long-term care providers and caregivers are stepping up to prepare for the demands we will face.

How is your organization or community preparing to better serve the growing number of people living with dementia?