The Alzheimer’s Association Is Working To Transform Dementia Care

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Sam Fazio

Sam Fazio, Doug Pace and Emily Shubeck

Developing and disseminating evidence-based practices

In early 2018, the Alzheimer’s Association released the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations as a supplement to The Gerontologist. Grounded in the fundamentals of person-centered care, the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations were developed to better define quality care across all care settings and throughout the disease course. They are intended for professional care providers who work with individuals living with dementia and their families in residential and community based care settings. The Recommendations outline 56 specific care recommendations in nine domains of care based on a comprehensive review of evidence, best practice, and expert opinion.

Doug Pace

The Alzheimer’s Association has dedicated most of 2018 to getting the word out about the evidence-based practice recommendations through national and regional conferences, webinars, and articles—many in collaboration with provider and aging organizations. We have also been working with existing policy makers and accrediting bodies to ensure that the evidence-based practices become standards for accreditation and certification. At the same time, we are concentrating on ways to support providers as they adopt and implement the practice recommendations in their care environments, and truly change systems for care.

Emily Shubeck

As you know, the journey of system transformation does not happen overnight and requires continued dedication and commitment. Throughout this journey, the Alzheimer’s Association is committed to helping dementia care providers implement quality care practices by offering a variety of tools and resources. The following resources leverage the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations in the areas of staff training and certification, peer-to-peer collaboration, and outcomes measurement. Additional resources will become available in the future to even further support individualized systems-based change.

Ensuring care professionals have up-to-date knowledge

We know that high quality training is a driver in the transformation of quality care. Research, as highlighted in the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, shows that high-quality dementia care training can lead to an improvement in communication between caregivers and individuals living with dementia, a reduction in dementia-related behaviors and an increase in job satisfaction for staff. The Alzheimer’s Association curriculum review will offer providers the opportunity to remain on the leading edge of person-centered care by measuring current training against five topic areas of the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, the benchmark for quality care across the disease spectrum.

Providers who train their staff with a training program recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association are eligible to purchase the essentiALZ® certification, an exam that demonstrates knowledge of quality care dementia practices.

Convening providers for sustainable change

Training alone is not enough. There must be a larger system that supports change. The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Program connects dementia care experts with assisted living communities and emphasizes high-quality, person-centered care in long-term and community-based care settings. Project ECHO® is a free telementoring program that uses videoconferencing technology to share information. This six-month program connects dementia care experts with leaders from assisted living communities across the country by combining bi-weekly presentations with interactive case studies to help enhance person-centered, high quality dementia care in community-based settings.

The Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Provider Roundtable is a consortium of thought leaders from the dementia care provider industry including assisted living, nursing home, and home and community based services. Industry leaders come together to discuss key areas in Alzheimer’s care and support practices in a precompetitive platform. The Roundtable meets quarterly by teleconference, and convenes in person once a year for coverage of topics identified by members as the most current critical needs. The Roundtable may also focus on specific issues facing the AD field that impact many of the member companies by forming a Task Force or Work Group. Currently, there are 26 provider members of the Roundtable.

Moving toward measuring outcomes

Long-term sustainability for person-centered culture change not only involves changes in everyday care practice but also in organizational policy. Many different paths can be taken and resources like those highlighted above can provide support along the journey—all in an effort to provide high quality, individualized care for persons living with dementia. It is important to have a process in place to continually evaluate practice and models regularly and make appropriate changes as needed.  It starts with developing a plan and identifying short and long-term goals.  It is essential to include staff from across all areas of the organization.  System transformation to a person-centered model starts with taking small steps, getting help along the way, and building support to encourage continued quality improvement.  As an organization evaluates changes made, recognizing and celebrating accomplishments achieved and building upon those successes is key to providing quality dementia care. As we move forward, more research is needed to illustrate the outcomes of these types of person-centered practices and system changes, both on the individual level and the organizational level.

Collaborating with Pioneer Network to support change

The Alzheimer’s Association and Pioneer Network have collaborated on many initiatives over the years and are pleased to have several opportunities coming this year. In May, the Pioneer Network Hot-Topics webinar will be “Person Centered Dementia Care: First Came the Recommendations, Now Let’s Explore the Outcomes!”  And we are excited to once again sponsor the dementia track, Person-Centered Dementia Care, at this year’s conference in Louisville. Led by experts in the field, the track includes a session led by the Alzheimer’s Association on measuring outcomes, as well as a panel of individuals living with dementia. In addition, we will host a special session on Sunday titled “Implementing the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations Across the Continuum of Care” to explore real world examples of adoption. Lastly, our exhibit booth will showcase our latest resources to support person-centered dementia care and systems change.

We look forward to continued opportunities to share resources with you in conjunction with Pioneer Network and to seeing you in Louisville and exploring how we can work together to continue to change the culture of dementia care.

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