As many of you know, I am a clinical psychologist. I'm also a certified dementia practitioner and an Alzheimer's disease and dementia care trainer. I have been treating those with dementia for about 12 years now. In that time, I created and practiced my own dementia care model and even wrote a book on it, being published by Johns Hopkins in October. I've trained and educated thousands of individuals. I've done podcasts, interviews, and more regarding the field. Some would say I am one of the experts in dementia care.
However, would you believe that I did not have one course on dementia in undergraduate or my graduate years? I remember in a course or two, perhaps a chapter included on cognitive disorders, however, it was never a focus or requirement to understand cognitive disorders. Most everything I learned about the disease of dementia came from my own doing.
Up until 12 years ago, my education and experience was mainly working with those with mental health disorders. When I entered into long-term care, dementia fascinated me. So I read, and read, and read. On my own volition, I took continuing education courses, went to conferences, collaborated with experts in the field, conducted my own focus groups on non-pharmacological interventions and techniques, etc. I took my interests and made another part of my career successful. However, with such a prevalent disease, why aren't healthcare professionals more trained in school?
Over the years, I've spoken to many physicians, nurses and CNAs, social workers, and physical, occupational and speech therapists, and they concur that they've had a similar journey. They rarely received education about dementia in their schooling. Most everything they did and will learn about this disease came from their place of employment. It just floors me that others had the same experience whom were in healthcare.
The issue with solely relying on your place of employment to educate you on all you need to know about dementia is often time, money, turnover, etc. Therefore, many healthcare workers are left not truly understanding the disease and how to take care of and intervene effectively. Now, several will take it upon themselves, as did I, to seek out education and apply what they've learned so they feel confident and competent in what they're doing. However, many do not for the very same reasons that employers struggle with providing consistent training. Therefore, many healthcare providers aren't trained and those with dementia are not properly cared for to ensure their best quality of life.
Where's the disconnect?! It's Jessica and I's mission to not only continue to provide education to the working healthcare professionals through our workshops and seminars, as well as our new Dementia Connection Classroom coming soon, but to create curriculum that will be required to take in school if you are a physician, nurse, CNA, psychologist, social worker, counselor or the like. Who's with us?!
I took my path for education on this disease into my own hands before, and I'll do it again.