Senior care is a specialized type of care that requires workers with a special skill set as well as a tremendous capacity for patience and sensitivity. When hiring new employees, keep in mind that some things, like proper medication storage and the best way to assist someone with toileting, can be taught—while other things, like compassion, cannot be taught. This is why employee training is so important—once you’ve filtered through job candidates and selected employees with the right temperament to work with seniors, you need to thoroughly train them. Training requirements vary from state to state and from facility to facility, but the following five topics are staples of senior-care training and should be taught to all employees who work with the elderly.
1. Privacy laws.
One of the most important things that you’ll need to really drive home with your employees during their training is the absolute importance of the privacy laws that are in place to protect seniors. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA, prevents senior caregivers or any other healthcare professional from being able to discuss the care of their patient with anyone on any level. These laws are very strict and must be covered extensively during employee training.
2. Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Sadly, more and more seniors are being diagnosed with one form of dementia or another. Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common types of dementia, is a degenerative disease of the brain characterized by forgetfulness, confusion, and mood swings. Working with people with dementia can be difficult, and the ability to provide specialized care requires thorough training and education.
3. Diet and nutrition.
Many seniors require a specialized diet—and that diet is often affected by medication. For example, one type of blood thinner that is commonly prescribed to seniors prevents them from being able to eat leafy greens like lettuce. Along the same lines, seniors with diabetes have many limitations when it comes to the types of foods they can eat. Caregivers who work with the elderly need to be aware of restrictions like these so there are no mix-ups with potentially dangerous foods.
4. Medication administration.
When caregivers are tasked with assisting the self-administration of medications, they will need comprehensive training on this process. They’ll need to understand what it means to assist, and when they can and cannot offer assistance, as well as your company policy for tracking medications, and the procedure to follow if a pill is lost or a mistake is made. While many common medications prescribed to seniors are fairly benign, there are some that could result in serious injury or even death if given incorrectly. When there is even a slight chance of injury or illness, it’s important to take as much time as necessary to make sure that your caregivers are comfortable assisting with the self-administration of medications.
5. Abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
One of the most tragic realities of senior care is the prevalence of abuse that exists within the industry. Seniors are susceptible to many different types of abuse including physical, financial, emotional, and sexual, not to mention neglect and exploitation. Many seniors fall prey to abuse from their friends and family members, and even caregivers with the best of intentions may unknowingly commit some type of abuse if they aren't educated in exactly what constitutes abuse. When caregivers know exactly what to look for, they will be more likely to observe and report possible abuse. No matter what, caregivers need to know they can, and should, speak up even if they aren't sure if abuse is taking place.
Training new employees is critical, but even the most experienced caregivers can benefit from continuing education on these topics and other relevant subjects. Initial, annual, and continuing education will ensure a safe environment for our senior population.