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Families get training as dementia caregivers

Family members of dementia patients can arm themselves with the skills to help ease the burden of Bermuda's “dramatic” shortage of skilled caregivers, according to welfare case worker Carol Everson.

More than 2,000 people in Bermuda are estimated to have dementia, leading to growing concerns over a lack of adequate facilities and support in recent times.

However, Ms Everson believes a training course for caregivers this summer will equip family members and professionals with essential knowledge to help improve standards of care on the island.

Alzheimer's Disease International, through funding from the Bermuda Legion, will launch the second edition of the course, which has gone global since its successful introduction in Bermuda in 2015.

“Bermuda has a dramatic need for more skilled caregivers and hopefully the course will, to some extent, fill that need,” Ms Everson told The Royal Gazette.

“Bermuda Legion assists war veterans and their widows — they are at the sharp edge of the challenges faced by the elderly in Bermuda.

“However, by bringing this course to the island we are able to assist not only our qualifying community but anyone else needing help with acquiring skills for care giving and attempting to qualify to take care of a family member.”

Training modules will provide caregivers with essential skills, give them key information about the disease and show them how to create dementia-friendly communities.

“Although there is no cure, there is a great deal that can be done for people with dementia,” Ms Everson said.

“It is possible for people with dementia to live well and to have a good quality of life, especially if they can be cared for at home by loved ones or professional caregivers.

“It is now possible for family members to qualify as caregivers and be paid by FutureCare if they satisfy the requirements given by Ageing and Disability Services and the Ministry for Health.”

There have been frequent calls for a specialised dementia care facility on the island, with Ms Everson previously warning of the burden the condition is placing on the island's growing elderly population.

Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming has also repeatedly called for more to be done to address long-term care needs, warning that Bermuda is in a “crisis” situation.

ADI is an international federation of 90 Alzheimer's associations around the world that is allied with the World Health Organisation.

It believes the key to winning the fight against dementia lies in a combination of global solutions and local knowledge.

“ADI is the gold standard for the development of the fight against dementia,” Ms Everson added.

“It is a fight to educate people. It is a fight to get proper treatment for people who deserve it. It is a fight for better legislation and support.”

Since its introduction in Bermuda in November 2015, the programme was presented in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia and will soon run in Qatar.

In Greece, it was used to qualify 1,000 home caregivers and 600 professional caregivers.

“The feedback that we have had is that there is a much enhanced understanding of dealing with people with dementia,” Ms Everson said.

“But Bermuda's elderly are less well protected in legislation and support than any other developed country we have found.

“There are still miles to go before Bermuda's standards of care approach those of other developed nations.”

Ms Everson said geriatrician David Harries has estimated that there were more than 2,000 Bermudians living with dementia and that the condition was not limited to older people.

She also stressed that dementia was “not an automatic sign that somebody needs to be moved to a nursing home”, with home care proven to have a very positive impact on their quality of life.

But she added that “there comes a time when professional care is needed”, noting a “huge shortfall of high-care spaces in Bermuda”.

“Bermuda desperately needs an extensive high-care facility with properly qualified staff,” she said.

She added that only Lefroy House Care Community, Sylvia Richardson Care Facility and Westmeath Residential and Nursing Care Home are qualified to provide high care.

“The Bermuda Legion has a big ask — it is our hope to be able to acquire funding from an outside source that will aid in the creation of a high-care facility.”

She added: “Hopefully the skills developed in the course will delay the need for people to go into residential care.”

The course will focus on a range of topics and the training sessions for 100 participants will be led by ADI executive director, Marc Wortmann. ADI also plans to train two Bermudian master trainers to present the course locally and share further knowledge with the community.

The training programme is hosted by the Bermuda Legion which, for the past ten years, has been a voice for the Second World War veteran's community, their widows and families, providing welfare and advice. Dates for the ADI course are July 5 to 11 and the cost is $75 for the five or six-module courses, with a certificate presented on completion which can be used as part of an application portfolio for registration as a caregiver by ADS. The course will be offered free to war veterans' families and caregivers, and to the unemployed. As there were more than 400 requests for places last time, applicants can contact the Bermuda Legion and preregister by e-mailing bermudalegion@gmail.com or nosoldierleftbehind@hotmail.com

Graduates from the first Alzheimer's Disease International course in Bermuda in 2015 (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 08, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 08, 2017 at 8:05 am)

Families get training as dementia caregivers

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