At PRA, we encourage a very collaborative approach to each and every project. Sharing and exchanging knowledge is a powerful tool, and one we believe should be practiced regularly. So when I was asked to join a Provider Expert Work Group to discuss the development of new dementia standards and training, I agreed to join without hesitation.
The Department of Health Services (DHS) selected each member of the 25-person work group, which consisted of LeadingAge Wisconsin representatives, industry leaders and long-term care administrators and executives. We spent three hours reviewing and discussing the Briefing Paper on Dementia Care Standards prepared by the UW-Oshkosh Center for Career Development and Employability Training (CCDET). The CCDET reviewed numerous dementia care standards and strategies and identified ten major areas relating to the standards. These areas are:
- Early diagnosis
- Promote autonomy and choice
- Rights of people with dementia and their families
- Staffing and training requirements
- Health and personal care
- Challenging behaviors
- Activity programs and lifestyle
- Physical design of facilities and safety
- Community awareness
- Integrated Services
Utilizing our shared knowledge and expertise, the 24 other work group members and I addressed several topics. The topics included: is there a need for an additional set of standards? If so, do these standards satisfy the common areas (as identified above) essential to personalized dementia care? And how best should the new standards be communicated and applied?
We arrived at the general consensus that these standards should be used instead as guidelines and expectations and not be stringent, mandated requirements. Dementia care is a complex facet of long-term care and one that must remain highly-individualized. While these new standards may prove useful, there is no singular set way to properly provide dementia care. Providers can certainly use these standards as a guide, but they must also remain flexible and adaptable in their approach to caring for persons affected by dementia.
The next step involves joining the Expert Stakeholder Group, which asks members to review and comment on future drafts of the standards and participate in Beta Testing to test the online training program for these standards. I’ve officially joined this group and look forward to continuing to work with the DHS and fellow stakeholders. It was truly an honor to be asked to join this discussion, and an experience that reminded me that no matter how many years of professional experience you may have, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new.