Healthcare students and dementia

Written by Calum James

Today on the blog we’re taking a look at healthcare students and dementia. It is important that nursing schools in Canada concentrate on geriatric care. Seeing that the aging population will increase, and the prevalence of dementia is increasing as well. Emphasizing on senior engagement in nursing school will allow future nurses to provide a better quality of care.

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A Ryerson University Associate Professor has voiced her concerns that the school’s nursing program does not have a proper focus on geriatric care and senior engagement. The nursing curriculum does in fact feature a geriatric care course for fourth-year students, but it is an optional course. Associate Professor Kristine Newman argues that it should be a mandatory course for all nursing students. We are going to examine the importance of training Healthcare Students in Geriatric Care, with a particular focus on engaging those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, while also examining those schools which provide Elder Care training and its effect on the students and their procedure.

Varying Statistics from 2011 show that the number of people living in Canada with Dementia at the time was anywhere  from 340 170 to 747 000. There are an estimated 850 000 people living with Dementia in the United Kingdom today. The global prevalence of Dementia is set to rise exponentially over the coming years. Consequently, there is a great need for healthcare students with compassion, greater knowledge of the disease’s long-term conditions and the impact on those affected by cognitive impairment.

The University of Surrey in Britain has implemented a “Time for Dementia” initiative into their healthcare training programs. Students of the Adult Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, and Paramedic Practice programs are paired up with seniors with dementia and their caretakers in order to develop the skills needed to effectively support these individuals. They are thus able to gain deeper insight into the challenges for families and caregivers alike that Dementia presents, the effects of Dementia with respect to society’s long term conditions, and consequently the impact it will have on an aging population.  With greater compassion and understanding, the program argues, the better care the students will provide in the future.

London Southbank University now holds Dementia Friends Sessions, so that students may become Dementia Friends as soon as their studies begin. Within these sessions, they are able to learn more about Dementia and have the chance to become a member of the national program for Alzheimer’s strategy known as Dementia Friends. As the students move on into their careers, patients and families will look to them as a source of information, and these sessions broaden their credentials as well as their understanding of Dementia. Dementia Friends may involve themselves in Alzheimer’s care practices in many different ways, including: helping or supporting a friend or relative with dementia, fundraising toward Alzheimer’s and Dementia causes, helping workplaces to become more Dementia-friendly, and more.

Both of these programs provide the students with a critical tool to add to their kit: effective communication between themselves and seniors with Dementia. It is necessary for healthcare professionals to understand how to effectively handle a confused or disgruntled senior, how to manage escalating situations, and what forms of communication and reassurances to avoid during escalation or confusion. With greater communication tools, they will be better able to settle an individual down, change the conversation path and uncover the root cause of the patient’s discomfort. It is also important that health care students are able to engage seniors in a way that ensures that their needs are both understood and met.

Clearly, these programs taking hold across Britain can have a major impact on healthcare students and provide seniors with a greater sense of comfort and control. Our nursing programs in Canada should make strives to meet the same level of expertise. Since Canada’s aging population is increasing, it would be beneficial for nursing schools in Canada to implement similar strategies. This will ensure our students are better informed about senior care and dementia since they will represent a huge part of the future Canadian population.