It can be challenging to navigate long-term care options and choose the best memory care community for your loved one. Every facility and community is different, and all have different pros and cons. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the single most important determinant of quality dementia care across all care settings is the direct care staff.
Quality dementia care begins with a strong foundation of principles and practices rooted in person-centered care.
“Staff in memory care get extensive, additional, ongoing training on dementia, assisting residents in the different stages, how different approaches work for different residents, and how important engaging residents in different activities throughout the day is,” says Carrie Wilson, director of the Reflections Memory Program at the Ivy at Ellington.
Dementia Care Training Requirements
Dementia training standards vary widely throughout the U.S., though each state does have mandated hours of required dementia training.
For example, in Massachusetts, long-term care facilities and dementia special care units are required to provide eight hours of initial dementia-specific training for staff and four additional hours of training per year. Medical directors, nurses, social workers, dietary aides, therapists, activities staff, and other direct-care staff are required to receive this specialized training in dementia care.
Connecticut’s Department of Public Health requires at least eight hours of Alzheimer’s and dementia-specific training for licensed and registered staff who provide direct care to residents in Alzheimer’s special care units or programs.
According to a Justice in Aging report, training requirements are more intense in special dementia care units of assisted living facilities, and much less attention is paid to providers serving people in their homes or other community-based settings.
“In an excellent community, you will have staff not only meeting that state requirement but going above and beyond, learning from their supervisors and as a team on a day-to-day, resident-to-resident basis,” Wilson says. “Each person with dementia is unique, so all of the learned training gets applied uniquely to each individual, which is where the supervisor, care team, and family members are always communicating, strategizing, and working together for the best life possible for the resident.”
Importance of Working with Families
Quality dementia care programs appreciate staff contributions to overall quality care and recognize them as key members of the care team. Not only are staff involved in the development of care plans, but they make every family member part of the caregiving team, too.
“The right memory care community will make a huge difference in the families lives as well as the resident,” says Talin Ganemian, Reflections Memory Program director at the Arbors at Westfield.
Wilson adds: “The resident and their family members will come to trust the staff as if they are part of the family.”
That’s because good dementia care involves using information about a resident to develop “person-centered” strategies, which are designed to ensure that services are tailored to each individual’s circumstances.
“The key to a great memory care program is staff who take the time to engage residents within their own capabilities to make each moment and each day enjoyable and successful,” Wilson says. “When you are touring communities, look for a caring, energetic, down-to-earth, knowledgeable, communicative, and honest staff. They need to know their job, do their job, care for your loved one as well or better than you would, engage your loved one in meaningful activities, handle the challenging behaviors with a professional, calm demeanor, and communicate with you every step of the way.”
For more information about how family caregivers can make sure a memory care community is the right fit for their loved one with dementia, download our eBook What to Look for in a Memory Care Community.