It seems nearly every family is impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s comprises 60-80% of dementia cases globally, affecting over 55 million individuals worldwide. And its ripple effects reach millions more – families, friends, and caregivers.

Since caregiving is our lifeblood at Saint Therese, and with June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we’re going to tell you about a program we have that helps educate our caregivers on the best ways to provide care for those living with dementia.

In 2022, Saint Therese began a significant effort to train all of our assisted living staff on the complexities of dementia care. The company-wide effort was possible thanks to a $40,000 unrestricted estate gift received in 2021. The anonymous donor had no significant connection to Saint Therese other than an interest in supporting Catholic organizations in the future.

Recognizing the prevalence of dementia in older adults, our leadership made the decision to use the gift to fund Dementia Capable Care Training (DCC) by Milwaukee-based Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).

Jessica Gier, VP of Clinical Operations, and Dinah Martin Kmetz, former administrator, spearheaded this dementia initiative. Both said they chose DCC because of its hands-on training and its focus on person-centered care.

While dementia training has long been require by the State of Minnesota, and by Saint Therese, the new Assisted Living licensure requires all new hires to have eight hours of dementia training if they work in a community that has residents with dementia.

Gier emphasized the uniqueness of DCC training, focusing on abilities rather than limitations caused by dementia. Students learn strategies for matching care approaches to cognitive levels/dementia stages and facilitating a person’s best ability to function.

Among the many things addressed in training is the use of language, for instance, people shouldn’t identify people with a diagnosis. CPI trainer Sharon Jackson said, “I’m not a person with high cholesterol, but we say, ‘she’s a woman with Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care.” Jackson also doesn’t like the word “sundowning,” because it’s not a diagnosis; these people are trying to communicate something. “If we change our words, we will change our actions.”

Training began in April 2022 to “train the trainers.” Jackson immersed in “Dementia Capable Care” at Saint Therese of Oxbow Lake, New Hope, and Woodbury for two days.

Barb Hanle leads DCC training at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake

Ongoing training includes four hours of computer-based and classroom training for all staff.

Barb Hanle, staff development director at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake, trains employees on DCC and fully appreciates its value. Passionate about dementia training due to personal experience with my mother at Saint Therese of New Hope. Watching her progress through the stages of dementia was difficult for my family. I believe helping staff be prepare and have the tools to work with seniors with dementia is going to improve the quality of life for the residents,” she said.

Joe Linhoff is in training

Joe Linhoff, the maintenance technician at Oxbow Lake, took part in training last fall. He doesn’t provide care, but daily interactions with residents improved his understanding of dementia and its behaviors.

There are two important outcomes from DCC said Martin Kmetz. “The ultimate goal is to help our residents with dementia be as successful as long as they can. To retain good staff, we must equip them with tools to help residents achieve success.

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