This program can be delivered to healthcare |
workers across Canada simultaneaously, the
benefits can be magnified.
Care for the Care GiverDistance training increases sensitivity for the needs of Alzheimers patients
According to estimates based on a 1991 Health Canada study 8% of Canadians aged 65 and over suffer from dementia. These percentages are clearly rising as we become more and more skilful at defeating other causes of early demise in Canadians.
A parallel concern is that the quality of care that we are able to afford these senior members of our society is often less than we would like. Long Term Care (LTC) facilities attempt to provide the best care possible but with limited financial resources they need to hire workers who are willing to work for a low wage and who as a consequence, are often forced to hold two or more jobs at the same time.
It was with these factors in mind that the University of Ottawa undertook a study, which involved 95 long-term care workers working in six Canadian long-term care facilities. The question that they posed was this, "Could distance education be used to increase the skill level of front line LTC workers with the result of improving the quality of care delivered for dementia patients and the quality of the workplace experience for the caregivers?"
Dr. Colla Jean MacDonald, the University of Ottawa researcher at heading the evaluation team for this study, told us, "Our study was based on the delivery of educational information designed to help LTC better understand why dementia patients behave the way they do and how best to respond to these behaviours."
The material itself was delivered over the Internet using Web CT. The health care workers who volunteered to be part of this study had for the most part, little or no previous computer experience. These caregivers completed the program while at work, during time taken from that which was normally available for their regular duties. The worker response to the training material was reportedly very positive and comments received from the workers indicated that they had achieved a new understanding of dementia related behaviours and were now able to react much more positively to the needs expressed by these patients.
Dr. MacDonald explained that, "The diversity of the LTC workforce provides special challenges for educating this sector. It appears that we have found an effective learning approach for adult healthcare workers, one that provides relevant, practical information that is easily accessible, simple and easy to use. From an employer’s perspective, programs like this one are attractive because they do not pull learners away from their work for long periods of time.
From a governmental point of view the economies of scale can be significant. The number of healthcare workers who could benefit from the dementia care program makes its delivery through eLearning extremely attractive. In Ontario alone it is estimated that, on a daily basis, approximately 100,000 people work and interact with residents with cognitive disorders in LTC facilities. When one considers that, through eLearning, the same program can be delivered to healthcare workers across Canada simultaneously, the benefits are magnified.
We feel that this project demonstrated that online dementia care training is both a feasible and cost effective strategy for delivering consistent, high quality training in the healthcare field. It is our hope that in future, this study will be seen as a starting point for a program which will allow healthcare professionals from across Canada to access dementia care training at any time and any place, including those who live in rural and remote areas."