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Using Targeted Training Content to Improve Non-Medical Caregiver Effectiveness

As a follow-up to generic onboarding and training, non-medical caregivers can definitely benefit from targeted education that matches specific needs of the populations they serve. For instance, think about caregivers who are working with people who have Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. We can give them the opportunity to train and take classes focused on such subjects as dementia care, targeted safety considerations for patients with dementia, how to communicate with dementia-afflicted patients, managing special dementia issues, and the science involved in dementia. Another area where a very focused training program might be beneficial involves chronic conditions care. For example, match caregiver education to prepare them to assist a client with a heart condition or someone with nutrition challenges related to diabetes care. Specialized learning tracks can really add to skills of caregivers and incentivize them to learn and apply their learning to clients and patients.

Paid caregiving is an area of healthcare that has serious human resources challenges. Recruiting and retention for this sector can improve if providers can show prospective employees that their organization provides career incentives for continued learning. Linking rewards and compensation to advancement through training is a way to attract people and retain them as employees. By providing learning opportunities, an organization is saying “Thanks for staying with us—here are some ways as an employee that you can provide even more value.” To keep challenging caregivers to develop their skills in a fundamental, productive way reinforces and builds stronger employee-employer relationships. Every employee wants to remain engaged—better training is a great way to do that.

Targeted Training for Dementia Care

Two recent studies show the value and opportunities that exist for caregiver education. The Paraprofessional Health Institute surveyed caregivers working in dementia. Dementia care is growing in importance; the number of people 65 and older, with Alzheimer's disease or dementia will rise from 5.3 million to 7.1 million over the next decade. Training can help caregivers understand non-pharmacological strategies that work with people with dementia, such as music education, music therapy, and art therapy. Sometimes the objective of care is interacting and socializing with patients. Research shows that interpersonal engagement with dementia patients has a significant impact on quality of life and outcomes. Training medical caregivers to adopt some of these measures is a way to really improve the patient experience. It never hurts to help caregivers think holistically about how to manage the care of their clients. When educating staff caring for Alzheimer's patients, it is best to make sure that they have a rudimentary understanding of the disease and of any chronic diseases that may coexist in older adults. Also, it helps staff to be emotionally and professionally prepared when dealing with the disease. Knowing what to expect as a client's health declines can mean employees are ready and able to talk to family members as needed. Proper training and preparation include ongoing education in a wide range of competency areas, so that assisting those with dementia and their loved ones becomes a natural part of the job.

Chronic Care Training, Including Cardiac Disease

An article in the Journal of the American Heart Association summarized a survey of cardiologists who identified the opportunity to improve cardiac care in the home setting. Home care workers, because they're with patients on a daily basis, are an important resource for what's going on with a patient. Training is a way for caregivers to understand the language to use with a cardiologist, which is invaluable if they are accompanying a patient who might have some confusion or is an unreliable source for how things are going. Ideally, organizations need to be sure that caregivers are not frustrated by care plans they've been given. Education can help them deal with heart failure care and understand how it connects to other chronic disease and chronic disease management. Basic medical education on nutrition can help staff avoid exacerbating chronic disease. For example, when heart failure is a problem, caregivers should automatically know to help their clients avoid highly salted foods. Training for caregivers also can help them to communicate more confidently with family members, healthcare professionals, and the patient.  

This blog post is the third in a series based on the HealthStream webinar, “Building a Pipeline of Home Health Talent: It Starts with Training,” presented by Helen Adeosun, CEO and co-founder of HealthStream’s partner, CareAcademy. This webinar focuses on the value of training the direct care workforce to increase their value and stature as part of the care continuum, especially for learning’s impact on retention and outcomes. With experience in training and in caregiving, Adeosun has focused her career on driving outcomes for adult learners, and especially in finding meaningful ways for them to engage in learning.

Learn more about HealthStream clinical development solutions for the continuum of care.