Alzheimer’s Training for Nurses: 4 Best Practices

Nurse talking to an Elderly Sitting on a Wheelchair

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s in the United States is fast approaching the 7 million mark, and healthcare workers will increasingly find themselves coming into contact with this disease. Adults over the age of 65 are the largest healthcare population, and nurses in hospitals, hospice care, nursing homes, and a variety of other roles across the system find themselves in need of strategies for managing the needs of these patients.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s isn’t completely understood, and although things like genetics, lifestyle, and underlying medical conditions have been identified as risk factors, true prevention and a cure are not yet within reach. It’s a constantly evolving field, and Alzheimer’s training for nurses like Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, and Cognitive Decline, an Introduction, and Fundamentals of Alzheimer’s Disease for Healthcare Providers provide essential knowledge and insight for delivering effective and compassionate care.

Every nurse needs to be prepared to manage patients with Alzheimer’s disease—sometimes on a moment’s notice. It’s critical for any healthcare professional working with adult populations to have a thorough understanding of the following best practices.

1. Be Mindful in Communication

Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently, and when it comes to what a particular patient understands and how well they communicate, be wary of making assumptions. Communication challenges can be extremely frustrating for anyone, so always be mindful that evidence of decreased communication in the presence of Alzheimer’s shouldn’t imply a decrease in understanding.

When communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s, exercising a little patience can help prevent any sense of embarrassment or shame. It may take them a little longer to process—give the patient ample time to respond, and it may be necessary to repeat your question. Refrain from putting the patient’s memory to the test, and it’s typically not helpful to point out when they don’t remember something.

Here are a few other helpful tips that can promote successful interactions with patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Limit distractions
  • Approach the patient from the line of sight to avoid startling them.
  • Don’t interrupt them and never argue
  • Questions with “yes” or “no” answers may be most effective

 

2. Continuity Is Key

For settings like long-term care facilities, maintaining a daily routine is paramount for creating a comfortable and supportive environment. Implementing structure around meal times, exercise, therapy sessions, and visitation can help keep patients with Alzheimer’s on track.

It’s also beneficial to assign the same core staff members to care for patients with Alzheimer’s. This allows the nurses to get to know their patients, vectoring in on their likes and dislikes while setting realistic expectations that align with their abilities. Something as simple as knowing which part of the day the patient functions best can allow a tailored care plan and avoid complications and confusion.

Finally, keep the environment as stable as possible and refrain from changing rooms or floors if possible. Even subtle adjustments can foster a sense of stress and anxiety that may further cloud cognitive function.

3. Involve Family and Friends

One of the best investments healthcare professionals can make for Alzheimer’s patients is looping in family and caregivers for care plans. By being an advocate and an educator, nurses empower these people to have a more meaningful relationship with their loved ones. Alzheimer’s training for nurses should include strategies for helping them become allies during the journey. Care supported by close relatives and friends can establish a greater sense of comfort and familiarity as patients go through transitions, and depending on the clinical setting, they can provide valuable support during both acute and routine processes.

Developing relationships with family members can also give nurses access to meaningful feedback on planned interventions and how successful they might be. Few people will be in tune with the patient’s abilities as well as the people closest to them, and their insight can be the difference between better and worse outcomes.

4. Self-Care for the Nurse

Caring for patients with Alzheimer’s can be incredibly taxing on the emotional resilience of the staff. Working with patients with Alzheimer’s can be very rewarding, but it is also a debilitating disease process that inevitably leads to decline and a loss of function. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and over time, nurses often develop emotional and personal relationships and the patients they serve.

Nurses caring for this patient population should build in time to reflect and care for themselves. For some, this may come in the form of hobbies, exercise, vacations, or therapy to maintain healthy boundaries and positive energy. For others, it means departure to another specialty within nursing. All healthcare providers need to care for themselves to be able to care for others, and part of developing a career is continuing to grow and find balance in your role.

Alzheimer’s Training for Nurses Is Key for Best Practices

Patients with Alzheimer’s have unique challenges, and unlike other medical conditions, the resources available are often limited to supporting patients through the disease process. With an aging population and no cure in sight, Alzheimer’s training for nurses continues to be a foundational component of care, and Premiere is committed to connecting these professionals with high-quality online resources.

Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, and Cognitive Decline, an Introduction and Fundamentals of Alzheimer’s Disease for Healthcare Providers are two courses that offer essential knowledge on the topic of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline. Both courses, created by Megan Arbour PhD, RN, CNM, CNE, and Trisha Mareno offer the latest in evidence-based practices for the care of aging patients.

All content created by Premiere is developed by industry experts and makes it easy for healthcare workers to meet their professional obligations and develop their careers on a timeline that matches their busy schedules.

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