Dementia Training for CNAs: Memory Care Can’t Happen Without It

By Emily Eilers | Posted on 06.22.2017 | 0 comments

The Staff You Can’t Afford to Lose Are Already Leaving Your Industry


This spring, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News published a column about the mass exodus of talented workers from long term care facilities. Currently, certified nursing assistants alone have an annual turnover rate of nearly 125%. The editorial was penned by a veteran of the LTC industry, who felt that facility leadership aren’t making enough of an investment in these frontline caregivers, impeding their longevity in the field.
 
Comments flooded in from experienced memory care staff, CNAs and nurses among them, most with more than a decade of experience. Like the author, they too felt unequipped to thrive in their positions in the memory care field without a genuine investment from their leadership. Many had either already burned out, or were struggling to regain momentum.
 
We don’t doubt it. We know that the decisions you have to make in the leadership of your memory care facility are far more complex and multi-layered than ever before.
 
We know that your job is hard, and we know that it’s compounded by talent turnover and burnout in a way other fields simply aren’t. Our Dementia Care Specialists take calls every day from memory care organizations that want their CNAs to be better skilled at safely engaging with residents who have Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnoses. “Our CNAs are getting verbally and physically assaulted by residents with dementia, and we need it to stop,” they’ll say, citing the expense of worker compensation claims and recruiting fresh staff as examples of what it’s costing them.
 
But when we ask what support is being offered to these overwhelmed frontline employees, we often learn that critical foundation training is not on the list.
 
Why would we train them? We don’t want to spend money on training tools for each CNA, or have them off the floor for an entire day just to receive dementia training. They’ll get the high points at their next in-service. Plus, there’s so much turnover in the CNA population—we’d invest in training employees who might be gone in a few months anyway.”
 
The assumption that CNAs, and other critical frontline staff, come and go through a revolving door is something we all take for granted. It’s a reflection of a culture change that is sorely needed, and Dementia Care Specialists has the solutions to train and retain caring and highly competent CNAs.



Tough Questions Merit Thoughtful Answers


Does the memory care industry face massive turnover because the grass is always greener at another organization, or does the memory care industry face massive turnover because its key staff aren’t getting the support they need to go the distance as caregivers?
 
We know that training is an investment that administrators can find challenging to adequately budget. Add to that the layers of compliance and regulation that govern memory care facilities, and it seems difficult to picture taking CNAs off the floor even for a short period of on-site Dementia Capable Care training.
 
Does the #memorycare industry face massive turnover because #CNAs aren't getting the training they need?
 

The truth is that paying now is much better than paying later—investing in training is far more affordable than continued spending on replacement staff, repairing your reputation, or restoring best practice levels of care. One path assures you dividends on your investment. The other does not.
 
Here’s the bottom line:
 
  1. Without training, frontline professionals (such as CNAs) in long-term care can’t know how to keep themselves or residents consistently safe.
  2. Without training, they can’t know how their language, behaviors, or approaches may inadvertently trigger aggressive, sometimes physically violent, behavior in residents.
  3. Without training, they can’t know how to take ownership of the caregiving experience to provide maximum comfort, calm, effective prevention, and safe intervention for risk behaviors.
  4. Without training, they can’t know how to identify key stages of dementia and recognize what abilities remain with the resident, or how to personalize high quality care that’s consistently effective.
  5. Without training, CNAs move more quickly through that revolving door, which costs your facility money. These CNAs are reporting that they don’t want to seek new employment so much as they want to be supported to implement best practices beyond the minimum regulatory standard of care.
 

Retention Is a Specific Investment; Replacement Is an Endless Expense


When it comes to budgeting, viewing CNAs and other frontline staff as liabilities instead of assets might be the accounting choice that costs your organization much more than you ever anticipated.
 
CNAs are certainly some of your best assets in providing excellent memory care. They’re the first wave of daily support for your residents. They assist with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and grooming—events that can often trigger anxiety and risk behavior in residents when caregivers lack training. CNAs are thus uniquely capable of making or breaking your facility’s reputation more rapidly than any other staff you employ.
 
With years of evidence-based outcomes and proven strategies in dementia care, we can help you flip the script.
 
What changes when you invest in Alzheimer’s or other dementia capable training for your CNAs?
  • They get the resources they need to facilitate activities of daily living in ways that cause minimal stress for residents
  • They are attuned to the most current, accurate knowledge about memory care, which empowers them to approach challenges with confidence and calm
  • They know how to keep themselves safe—and residents—when aggression or agitation are manifested verbally or physically
  • Experiencing the same quality, person-centered care from their employer that they pass on to their residents means that they feel valued in their positions and are more likely to remain long-term employees
 

Alzheimer's Training for CNAs Is Just the Beginning: Best Practices Benefit Everybody


Alzheimer’s training for CNAs is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to memory care. There are a variety of diagnoses like frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia—to name a few. A facility that is truly implementing best-practice memory care will understand all forms of dementia, the abilities that remain with each stage, and how to tailor all aspects of care to the needs of the resident. This means that CNAs need the same dementia capable care foundation training as the rest of staff.
 
The reality is that when it comes to your role as a community leader in memory care, the investment you make in your staff directly impacts the quality of care your residents receive, and that bolsters your reputation as a best-practice memory care organization. And you may notice that this investment pays an important dividend over time—turnover will become less of an issue for these critical staff members that your organization—and your residents—depend upon.
 

 

The Outcomes Will Amaze You: Anna’s Story


Anna’s mother has had dementia for nine years, but finding a memory care facility that she could thrive in was perpetually difficult. She would often display aggressive and argumentative behavior towards CNAs who were attempting to help her change the undergarments she requires for management of incontinence.
 
“Get away from me! I hate you!” she would scream at them. In her agitation, it became impossible to help Anna’s mother, and CNAs began to give up, leaving it to trained nurses or even an administrator to attempt to handle it if they were available, which simply made things worse.
 
Anna decided she had to find a facility that trained its CNAs, and the difficult search proved to be well worth it. Under the care of trained frontline staff, Anna’s mother not only displays significantly less risk behavior, but the CNAs find her much easier to work with because they understand what’s likely to trigger her stress and are confidently trained to circumvent those triggers. Provided with a Life Story Questionnaire for Anna’s mother, they’ve learned how to honor her preferences. Having received the same foundation training as the therapists they work with, these CNAs are now able to effectively support therapeutic and medical staff efforts, and prepare Anna’s mother for things like bathing and showering with much more positive, peaceful outcomes.
 
One CNA recently remarked to Anna that the information provided in training has been transformative in her relationship to Anna’s mother as a caregiver. “Your mom no longer tells me she hates me. She calls me ‘honey’, and she even thanks me when I help her put on the briefs I’ve learned that she prefers!”
 
Anna agrees. “She’s more stable, with fewer upsets. She feels more respected, and the CNAs have an easier time working with my mom because of their training. I also have more peace of mind.”
 
When it comes to memory care, training may present you with one more expense to account for, but its dividends reduce significant administrative costs over time, and the peace of mind it affords is priceless. That peace of mind belongs to families, to residents, to staff, and to management.


Are you ready to explore how Dementia Care Specialists can support your frontline staff, promote safe and effective care, and help you retain dedicated caregivers? Call us today at 877.816.4524!
 
 
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