This is Part one of a two-part series on Dementia Care Specialists and Earning a Dementia Care Specialization. You can read Part two here.
Have you noticed just how often you hear the term Dementia Care Specialist or something similar? If you Google the words “Dementia Care Specialist” today you will find a plethora of people, businesses, and organizations using this name.
I find myself wanting to better understand others’ definitions of a Dementia Care Specialist. Because having that level of knowledge matters a lot to all of us.
An Expert in What?
Dementia Care Specialist is a powerful title, but without clarification it might not mean what you think.
For example, you may want dementia training that leads to a credential, but is it the right training and credential? Or maybe you want to work with a person or business marketing the title, but does this person or business truly possess the knowledge and skills you are seeking?
It’s very important to ask yourself, “What is this person or business an expert or specialist in?” These are really two questions within one.
Dementia care encompasses a broad range of knowledge and skills based upon the particular role. It leaves me wondering what this person or business is actually a specialist in. Because the expertise needed for one job role, and the qualifications to obtain the specialized training and title, varies.
When looking into dementia care training, there are some questions you should ask yourself:
Is the training designed for a front-line person, such as a nursing assistant or activity leader? If yes, then understanding the basics—such as the causes and impact of dementia types, the stages, and how to support the person in care and their loved ones—may be enough.
Is the training designed specifically for a medical professional such as a registered nurse or occupational therapist? If that’s the case, then higher-level knowledge and skill—such as those required for cognitive assessment, treatment/care planning, and discharge planning—are also necessary.
The level of training, including the number of hours, content, and curriculum, should vary based upon the patient care responsibilities and educational background of the intended role and audience. There is a wide variety of dementia training offerings available, and the expertise gained will differ with each. Understanding the differences and the intended audience is important, and I’m sure we all can agree that some level of dementia training and dementia care expertise matters, regardless of staffing level.
How is the specialization or expertise gained? Depending upon the extent and complexity of the training curriculum and the care role, the requirements of recognizing a person’s level of knowledge or expertise will also vary. Is recognition earned via a test of their knowledge only? Or are they required to demonstrate their ability to apply the knowledge learned?
Taking a test is different than demonstrating confidence and skill via application. And application to a case study or role-play scenario is not the same as application in a real-world, real-time care situation.
Not all Dementia Care Specialists and dementia specialized trainings are equal. And that’s okay, so long as we are clear on the differences, including the scope and level of training, the specialized knowledge and skills to be gained, and the criteria for determining recognition of learning or expertise. This should be clear—both for the person interested in taking training to earn a credential, and others who may want to partner with or use their services.
So, What's in a Name?
If you ask me, a lot.
When I founded Dementia Care Specialists as a dementia training and consulting organization in 1998, I thoughtfully selected this name for my business because of our advanced education and specialized skills in dementia. Our clinical team received higher education in geriatric rehabilitation and aging within our Occupational Therapy educational curriculum. We went on to gain extensive continuing education in dementia pathology, brain physiology, and cognitive theory, including Claudia Allen’s Cognitive Disabilities Model.
As a team of health care professionals, we actively sought out and acquired focused, advanced training in the disease process and functional cognitive assessment and intervention.
The other core component of our name Dementia Care Specialists is “Care.” This is a word that means a lot to me. Our desire to enable those living with dementia to thrive and to experience quality of life was palpable from the very beginning. We have always been passionate about making the world a better place for those living with dementia, and that goes far beyond understanding the disease process and pathology. It means we do everything possible to enable those with dementia to remain actively engaged in meaningful life activities at their best ability.
This was, and is, our guiding vision and fuels our mission to create a Dementia Capable Society.
Understanding the origin of our name helps you know what to expect from us. For me, our name represents those vital components of advanced dementia expertise combined with our passion and commitment for high quality and effective dementia care. As a result, you can expect our heart and soul to be in everything we do, with the goal of delivering dementia care in a way that enhances health, independence, and quality of life.
I am grateful that the name that spoke to me so many years ago remains the perfect representation of our commitment to excellence and our mission.
Kim Warchol, OTR/L is President and Founder of Dementia Care Specialists at Crisis Prevention Institute.
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