by Kathryn A. Packard, M.Ed., MS, LPC, CDP, CADDCT UAMS Oaklawn Center on Aging / Arkansas Aging Initiative
In 2013, five million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050 this number is projected to rise to 14 million according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death for all ages and fifth leading cause of death for people 65 years of age and older. Alzheimer’s Disease does not discriminate; it affects, women, men, and all ethnic groups, and begins at various ages. Someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds with an annual cost of more than $203 billion.
The need to increase knowledge and to assist families and those affected by Alzheimer’s disease is growing. In the United States, there are over 15 million unpaid caregivers. Although in recent years much attention has been given to Alzheimer’s Disease, and there is more awareness of the devastation of the disease, more education and information is needed on how to best care for those who have been diagnosed.
The Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative is funded to train first responders in the State of Arkansas. Certified First Responder/Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainers will be presenting the training. The curriculum they will be offering was developed by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. The mission of the training program is “to promote, encourage and enhance the knowledge, skills and practice of all persons who provide care and or services to dementia clients by means of requiring excellent standards of education, dementia specific training and incentives for professional development of those who are dedicated to the ever growing field of dementia care”.
When first responders are called to a scene it is because the caregiver believes there are no other options available to him/her, has reached caregiver burnout, or the dementia person’s behavior has become dangerous to self or others. Knowledge about how to diffuse the situation can be priceless to someone who is afraid, doesn’t know how to handle the situation, and needs assistance. How to approach a dementia client using appropriate tone of voice and facial expressions may seem like a small thing, but to someone who is afraid and confused, knowing what to do can be extremely reassuring and comforting.
For first responders, knowing the difference between normal aging and dementia is also important. Asking appropriate questions of the caregiver to diffuse the situation can be valuable to the entire community. First responders may be the link that assists the caregiver to keep the dementia client at home or in their residential environment.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Training will teach first responders about dementia diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment; how to communicate with the patient and the caregiver; what to look for and how to react with disruptive behaviors, catastrophic reactions, care concerns such as abuse and neglect, and driving issues. Included will be information on diversity, cultural competence, the importance of spiritual care and end of life issues. These are important tools for all first responders as well as for caregivers.
In addition to these special classes offered to first responders, the UAMS Centers on Aging, the Arkansas Aging Initiative, along with the Schmieding Home Caregiver Training programs offer family caregiver workshops with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. Teaching about dementia can relieve stress for caregivers and enhance a dementia client’s chances of remaining at home. Knowing how to care for dementia patients is the first step toward improving care of our older adults who suffer from this disease. For more information, please visit www.arcargiving.org or www.agec.org.
Budson, Andrew E. and Kowall, Neil W. 2014 John Wiley and Sons ltd.