Day five of the seminar started off with Susan Frick, MSW from Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center speaking on the vital role communication plays in dementia. Seminar attendees learned that, contrary to popular belief, communication is only 7% verbal. Instead, the vast majority of communication comes from tone/inflection (38%) and body language (55%). The biggest takeaway was that even when someone has lost the ability to understand verbal communication, they can still understand tone/inflection and body language. An important factor to keep in mind! Susan then pointed out that the goal of communication changes when someone has dementia. This is a “new normal” that can be a hard adjustment for the caregiver. Typically the goal of communication is to share facts and information. However, when someone has dementia, the goal becomes connecting with that person in the moment, providing them an opportunity to be successful, and developing a genuine bond.
Next on the seminar agenda was a discussion on understanding and refocusing behavior. The most important takeaway that Susan shared is that behavior is a form of communication. Seminar attendees participated in an interesting exercise where we were asked to imagine ourselves in a situation many of our residents find themselves in daily. For example “you are feeling bored and restless at home, so you decide to go out for a walk. But you find that your front door has been locked and a stranger appears and tells you to go and sit down.” We were then asked how we would respond if we found ourselves in this type of situation. Many of our responses mirrored the responses we see from our residents when they are in these kinds of situations. When you think about behavior in terms of, “How would I feel if that were me?” it paints a clearer picture of what is truly going on and helps you think about the behavior from a new perspective.
A hot button topic for many geriatric professionals is psychotropic medication. I was really excited to hear what Anna Dowd, APN, had to say on the topic. She shared the “Golden Rules” of geriatric pharmacology, discussed the Black Box warning on antipsychotic medications and what this means for those with dementia. She also shared how these medications are monitored and in what circumstances each type of psychotropic would be appropriate to use. It was a great overview of medications, how they can be used and the benefits they can provide when non-pharmacological interventions just aren’t working.
One of the final speakers of the seminar was Jeannine Forrest, Ph.D., R.N., CHPN, who represents Through the Forrest, LLC. Dr. Forrest gave a thoughtful presentation on late stage dementia care. She pointed out that much of our dementia programming and care focuses on the early- and middle stages of dementia, but in many cases, people spend the most time in the late stage of the disease. She identified gaps in care and what can be done to fill these gaps. She encouraged participants to look at how we are providing end of life care and think about ways we can improve this experience for those we care for.
Armed with the valuable information, tips and tools I have learned in this training program, I am excited to work with my peers to further develop the dementia education that K-B provides for its employees.