Why Dementia Care Training Is Essential to Ensuring Safety

Hey there! Kim here. Check out the video below, in which I relate an issue that my family is currently dealing with—and one that I know many other families around the world deal with too.

Recently, one of my family members was admitted to the hospital for a medical procedure. My loved one is in the early but not always noticeable stages of vascular dementia. Because of his dementia, he didn't understand how to stay safe and avoid falls—and because the hospital staff didn’t do a cognitive assessment, they didn't provide him with adequate supervision or care.

During his stay, my family member did the best he could with the cognitive abilities he had. And he was treated with disrespect, which is unacceptable.

And that's why we do what we do: We train health care professionals to give them the skills to effectively evaluate the cognitive abilities of the people in their care and to use a respectful, compassionate, and productive approach that helps persons with dementia maintain happiness and dignity.

Everyone involved in care—from nurses to nurses' aides to doctors to therapists—everyone needs to be aware of how and when to perform cognitive assessments and how best to provide skilled and heartfelt care in order to ensure that persons with dementia are safe both physically and emotionally. Because when we're aware of a person's cognitive level, we can adjust our approach to help that person stay happy, stay safe, and stay engaged in meaningful activities.

Whether you're a family care partner or a professional care partner to a person with dementia, I urge you to share the video below with your friends, your family, and your coworkers, and to join our community on Facebook—because for the health of our elders and the health of our society as a whole, we must work together to make sure that this vital change in care occurs.



Here's a transcript of "Dementia Care Training: Keeping Our Loved Ones Safe":

Good morning! Kim here. You know, I was just thinking that there’s a story that’s going on in my own family that’s probably going on in many families around this country. Today, and I just felt really compelled to have to tell you about what I’m experiencing, and see if it’s something that you’re experiencing too, and talk about what is it that we should all be doing to try to make this situation better.

You know, in my own family, we have a loved one who’s in his 70s and he was recently put in the hospital because of an acute medical situation. And he happens to have early stage dementia of the vascular type. And when he was admitted to the hospital, they didn’t do any type of a cognitive assessment, even though he’s in his mid-to-late 70s, they didn’t really do any of that assessment, and he's early enough stage that he's oriented times three, you know he knows the date, the month and the year—he's very communicative—so nobody had any indicators of any dementia just from a quick interview.

So he was at this hospital, and he couldn’t get out of bed. He had a restriction that it wasn't safe to get out of bed. And the nurse kept telling him, “Don't get out of bed because you're at risk for falling; you’ve just had a recent procedure; you're weak.”

So when you think about when somebody has early stage dementia and they go into a hospital and they’ve had medical procedures, their cognitive or their mental abilities are even a little bit more compromised than normal because of the medical procedure and this change of environment.

So he kept trying to get out of bed to use the restroom, which is a normal automatic behavior.

And the nurse kept running back in and saying to him, "I told you, don't you remember, stay in bed, you have to use this call light to ask for help when you need to get up."

So this kept going on for quite a while, and the nurse became extremely frustrated and she finally looked at my family member and said, "What part of 'Do not get up out of bed' don't you understand?"

And my other loved one, who was in the room, his wife—she felt devastated to hear him be scolded like that by this nurse. So finally after a few minutes, the nurse looked at my female loved one—his wife, and said, "Does he have dementia?"

And she said, "Yes he does. Early stage vascular dementia."

It took over a day for that question to be asked. It took almost a day of an accident in that hospital, him falling, because the nursing staff didn't have the right approach to keep him safe because his reasoning and his memory is compromised.

But it just amazes me that we're not doing these good cognitive assessments when our elders are moving into these new situations and we're putting them at risk for an accident or injury by not doing those good cognitive assessments.

And then when it's discovered that yes, he does have some dementia, and this is why he’s not remembering to use the call light—this is why you have to come in here every five minutes and remind him.

The nurse didn't even have any remorse—she didn’t even apologize—she didn't take another approach to the situation. I think that’s what hurts my heart the most. She scolded him, and I think that’s unacceptable.

So I’m just sitting here thinking about this and thinking, How many elders out there have even minor changes in mental and cognitive abilities? And when you combine that with a medical procedure and the change and all the stress and the stimulation of a hospital, and that even compromises your cognition more, how many of these people in those environments are at risk for an accident or an injury like a fall because they can't remember a direction? And why are we not preparing these nurses—and therapists like me—out of school, with how to do a good cognitive assessment to prevent an accident or an injury to look for indicators of dementia and to keep this person feeling happy, successful, and safe instead of scolding this person—this adult—like a child for something that’s out of their control?

This man was doing the best he could with the cognition and the mental abilities he had available to him. He didn't deserve to be treated in that way by that nurse, and that's going on everywhere in our country. It's disgusting, quite honestly. And it's why we do what we do to train health professionals to give them the skills to evaluate, to give them the skills to have this right approach between what they're asking this person or their patient to do and what the person is capable of doing.

But I also have to ask, why are our schools not preparing these nurses, nurses’ aides, and therapists more consistently with these abilities to serve individuals with Alzheimer's and related dementias?

This has to start happening in this country or we'll have more incidents like the one that just happened to my family member. And it's very upsetting. And I hope that together we can have this situation changed.

Thanks for listening this morning. Have a good day.



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