Picture yourself in your home, and count every door and doorway you can think of.
Now imagine you have dementia. You’ve waited too long to get up to use the restroom, and you can’t remember which door leads to the bathroom.
How do you feel? Frustrated? Angry? Scared?
This is one demonstration that Golden Horizons’ dementia educator Bonnie Fritz often uses when conducting dementia training for caregivers. She helps them understand how a patient may be feeling so they can work through strategies to address the situations they encounter.
These trainings for caregivers are provided through grant funding from Bay Area Community Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Fund. The fund was established to assist those who struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Golden Horizons conducts a minimum of 24 training sessions a year—although it is usually closer to 40—for healthcare workers at nursing homes, hospice, assisted living homes, senior citizen high rises, and community organizations. Additionally, they offer free trainings for caregivers and family members at their facility every month that are open to the community.
Lisa Smith, a direct care provider through Visiting Angels Home Care, took a three-part class when she started her job. She had experience as a caregiver, but not in working with seniors. She currently works with three patients struggling with memory issues and have found this training has helped immensely. “The best advice I remember is to get to know the patient and what they are interested in,” she said. “Sometimes, it can spark a memory that allows you to connect with them.”
“Would you recommend this training to others?” we asked her. Excitedly, she responded, “Yes. I already have!”
Lisa stresses that there isn’t enough information available for the healthcare workers or the general public. There are a lot of misconceptions about dementia, and these classes help dispel those.
Annette Syring, who is responsible for nurse education at Bay Medical Care Facility, agrees that the classes are very enlightening and helpful, especially as new staff members who may not have had experience with dementia patients join the team.
Without the foresight of a group of like-minded individuals, this support for dementia caregivers would not be possible. The Alzheimer’s Fund at BACF awarded $20,000 in 2018 to support this program and provide compassionate care for this vulnerable population.