New training is available for P.E.I. health-care workers to more effectively and sensitively care for people with dementia, through a new course at Holland College.

The course, called Caring for Persons with Dementia, was developed by faculty at Holland College along with staff from the Beach Grove Home and Prince Edward Home long-term care facilities. It's available only to those currently working in the field with three to five years experience. 

"This course is built for those that are working in the field — they will never come and spend a year at the college," said Lornie Hughes, program manager for Health and Community Studies at Holland College. "This is an industry-specific course."

Facilities that hire the college's students and also advise the college on curriculum saw the need for more dementia-care training in their institutions, he added. 

"It's good that Holland College will listen to industry when they need some training for those professionals," Hughes said. 

'Applicable to their next day'

The course is unique, Hughes said, because it was inspired by the actual experiences of people working in long-term care facilities.

students of the 'Caring for Persons with Dementia' course at Holland College, P.E.I.

Some of the 24 students in Holland College's Caring for Persons with Dementia course offered to P.E.I. health care workers. (Government of Prince Edward Island)

The goal of the course is to work with health-care providers to create opportunities for professional development to adapt to changes within the health care system. 

Ensuring the course was practical and easily applied was a priority, Hughes said — it's a night course, so those already working canupgrade their skills. There are 24 students currently enrolled. 

"Those who are working in the field are working in the daytime and we want to make sure that when they come to the course, what they're getting is very applicable to their next day," Hughes said. 

Susan Clory teaches the course and also helped develop the curriculum.

"As a group we talked about the experiences we had as health-care professionals and where we felt the gaps were, and from those gaps is where we developed the curriculum," said Clory.

The course's focus on specific behaviours and scenarios that students can relate directly to the workplace is an important and unique part of the training, she said. 

May be available to families

The course examines several aspects of dementia, including the different types of dementia, identifying physical changes that occur, and how to develop a people-centred approach in caring for dementia patients. 

It also explores the need for self-awareness and self-care for health-care professionals working with people with dementia.

The course began in September and will run until December.

Holland College plans to offer the course again in January, Hughes said, and hopes to eventually open the course to families and loved ones of dementia patients.

The college also plans to offer a new night course for those already working in the field of youth addictions starting in the new year, Hughes said.