The number of people living with dementia in the U.S. continues to rise. To better serve this population, more home care providers are implementing service lines focused on memory care and disease-specific needs.
Moorestown, New Jersey-based Bayada Home Health Care is one such provider. The nonprofit has invested in a robust dementia training program to ensure its caregivers have the skills to support all clients living with the complex condition.
As an organization, Bayada offers a range of in-home care services to older adults, children and individuals living with disabilities across 22 states and over 345 locations. It saw a demand for continued education around dementia care from both clients and caregivers, according to Lauren Hirsch, a director at Bayada.
“The science, information and treatment of dementia is ever-evolving, and we have to keep up with that,” Hirsch said during a presentation at the 2021 Winter Leadership Summit hosted by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). “Investing the time to dedicate resources to updating the training materials and to help support caregivers to be successful in their role is extremely vital.”
Nationally, there are more than 5 million people age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease — a number that is estimated to grow by roughly 14 million by 2025, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with others including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and more.
Surveying caregivers has been one of the key components of Bayada’s dementia program. The survey results have helped the company better identify what topics caregivers want to learn more about.
“A lot of our information was specific about Alzheimer’s disease and the progression,” Hirsch said. “One of the things that came back to us in the feedback was how [caregivers] wanted to learn about different types of dementia. We had to adjust our training to make sure that we added the education and resources they needed to be able to determine the different types of dementia they may experience when working with clients.”
As a result of its survey efforts, Bayada updated its program to include information about frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body, in addition to the symptoms associated with these specific diseases.
When forming its training program, Bayada wanted to implement something more substantial than a one-time video or self-directed learning. The company set out to create a program that would lead to better outcomes for dementia clients and reduce turnover among the caregivers working in this specialty.
“One of the biggest challenges that we faced … is reducing turnover for staff working with dementia clients,” Hirsch said. “If you’ve ever had a personal or professional experience taking care of [someone] with dementia, there can be burnout — and it can be very overwhelming.”
To this end, Bayada took an interactive approach to training its caregivers. The company places its caregivers in small groups, where individuals can work together and ask questions.
“Videos can be helpful, and self-directed learnings can be great,” Hirsch said. “But they don’t always give you all the information or the dialogue that you might need, that you get in an interactive group [environment].”
For Bayada, it was also important to create incentives to keep employees engaged when it comes to training.
“We roll out the red carpet,” Michelle Watts, a director at Bayada, said during the NAHC event. “We provide breakfast and snacks and prizes throughout the day. We provide company materials, backpacks, water bottles, things that also encourage participation. One of the things we really wanted to see in the program is engagement and participation.”
Bayada has seen clear success with its dementia training program.
In internal surveys, roughly 87% of the company’s caregivers have said the training improved their ability to do their job. About 92% of caregivers said they will use their new knowledge and skills when working with clients.
“We’ve seen excellent retention from those who have gone through the program, as well as overall employee satisfaction,” Watts said. “Secondly, our ability to convert referrals into active clients has really grown because of offering this program.”
Watt also noted that Bayada has seen an increase in client satisfaction scores.
Throughout the process of putting together a dementia services business line, it’s important for providers to remember that not every caregiver is equipped to work with a client living with dementia. The caregivers in Bayada’s program are caregivers who wanted to learn more and felt they could take on this role, according to Hirsch.
“The example I give is, not every caregiver is equipped to take care of a hospice client or patient,” she said. “I think the same thing goes with those that have dementia. Some people just don’t feel like they have the personality or experience to do that.”