Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are becoming increasingly common in Americans over 65. As the baby-boomer population ages, these debilitating conditions will become more prevalent; the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by 2025, as many as 7 million American seniors could develop Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050 that number nearly doubles to 13.8 million cases.
As more and more Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s, the pressure will fall on a healthcare system already facing staffing shortages. Medical professionals will struggle to manage the influx of aging patients coupled with providing the more intense care required for them. However, according to a 2020 Alzheimer’s Association survey, 82% of primary care providers (PCPs) like nurses and CNAs say they are on the front lines of providing dementia care, but not all are confident in their patient care. Nearly 40% of PCPs aren’t comfortable diagnosing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, while 25% haven’t had any training in either diagnosing or caring for these conditions. Joanne Pike, Dr.P.H., chief program officer at the Alzheimer’s Association puts it plainly: “The perspectives of primary care physicians raise an important alarm regarding the current reality and future of dementia care in this country. The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is increasing and primary care physicians, who are the front line of providing care, are telling us the medical profession is not prepared to meet the future demand.
It is critical that healthcare professionals become adequately prepared to provide Alzheimer’s and dementia care in the coming decade in order to ensure that timely, high-quality care is available for everyone who needs it. Becoming knowledgeable about these conditions can empower medical professionals and other types of caregivers to make the best decisions for their patients. If medical staff does not properly prepare themselves, providing specialized care to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients can lead to compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout.
Healthcare professionals can seek out resources to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as learn how to better care for their patients to help them cope with the the symptoms of their conditions. Continuing education is important for all nurses, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to memory care. In fact, a 2017 Monash University found that continuing education can actually help support nurses in their work, improving both the quality of care they provide and their own job satisfaction.
Caregivers can find many types of resources on Alzheimer’s and dementia training and certifications, as well as additional supporting information:
CARES for Organizations, Individuals, and Families: Dementia training, certification, and credentialing for healthcare professionals and family caregivers.
Certifications from the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners: Dementia care certifications for caregivers, practitioners, and first responders.
ClinicalTrials.gov: Government database that helps interested volunteers find clinical studies to participate in, so they can contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia research.
Dementia Capable Care Training from the Crisis Prevention Institute: Trains healthcare workers on how to support patients through all stages of dementia.
Fall T.I.P.S: Toolkit designed to help caregivers prevent patient falls in hospital settings.
In the Know Caregiver Training: Online and instructor-led training courses for individuals working in all healthcare settings.
Person-Centered Dementia Care Training Program and essentiALZ Exam: Online training program prepares healthcare professionals to work in long-term, community care settings.
Welderly Care Dementia Training and Certification: Certifies family caregivers, healthcare professionals, home healthcare workers, and senior community staff members to properly care for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Only through early preparedness and continuing education can nurses, doctors, and aides begin to prep for proper patient-care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in the years to come. To overcome the challenges ahead and provide the best-quality care, healthcare professionals must take it upon themselves to learn about the unique demands of memory care, and act on ways to improve their knowledge and understanding.