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ComForCare and At Your Side Home Care Innovative Caregiver Training Program Addresses America's Growing Need for Dementia-Capable Home Care Teams

- Occupation-Based and Team-Centered Dementia Care Education Transforms On-the-Job Training for Seasoned and Novice Home Care Workers -

TROY, Mich. -- Of the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, most remain in their homes throughout the progression of the disease. This option can allow greater comfort, familiarity, and quality of life compared to institutional care. Although there are benefits to aging at home, research reveals individuals and families dealing with dementia at home face significant disease-related and social challenges; thus, there is an urgent and growing need for more dementia-capable home care services. In light of the situation, stakeholders—including policymakers, administrators, families, and people living with dementia—continuously emphasize interdisciplinary staff training to create a more dementia-capable workforce.

ComForCare and At Your Side Home Care have launched DementiaWise®, an innovative occupation-based and team-centered training program designed to help their home care teams resolve dementia-related challenges. The DementiaWise program is changing the way home care agencies approach memory care training and client collaboration in the U. S. and Canada.

A program evaluation study conducted by student and faculty researchers at Duke University Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program and Partnerships for Health found home care workers who completed the DementiaWise training felt better equipped and empowered to collaboratively care for clients living with dementia and their families (self-efficacy). They had greater job satisfaction compared to teammates who had not yet completed DementiaWise.

Background
Developing a dementia-capable workforce has proven a challenge for the entire health care industry, including home care agencies. Despite an abundance of proven dementia care strategies and significant time spent in traditional lecture-style training, caregivers of all disciplines still struggle to apply knowledge after the training in real-life situations. Without effective on-the-job training and support, experts warn that well-meaning team members can burn out under the stress of dementia caregiving.

Need for New Workforce Training
ComForCare and At Your Side Home Care, together with partners at Duke University and Partnerships for Health, have turned their attention to an essential design flaw that experts believe has limited traditional dementia care training. Teams often lack opportunities to plan, test, evaluate, and reflect as a team on the process of adapting responses to real-world challenges.

"With that problem in mind, we knew that more hours in traditional training would be inadequate to improve life for our clients, their families, and our home care teams," said Stephanie Wierzbicka, Manager of Strategic Health Programs for ComForCare.

Innovative Program Design
In DementiaWise, person-centered care is the team's standard and the goal of their work. There are twelve DementiaWise strategies, which are the team's tools of the trade, but the new program doesn't just lecture the information and strategies to learners. Instead, learning is viewed as a dynamic process of problem-solving, reasoning, and reflection on experiences. The video training depicts a caregiver working with her team as they encounter common dementia-related challenges in home care. The team's shared challenges help structure content and merge knowledge of the disease, evidence-based care strategies, the client, care environment, and the situation into best-practice solutions. Additional real stories from ComForCare employees in the video exemplify solutions fueled by knowledge of dementia care, creativity, and teamwork. In the new program, the team's success is measured by an expanded ability to tap into learning in novel situations. The program emphasizes a generalizable process of problem-solving, not just dementia-specific content. ComForCare employees are featured as role models—mobilizing the knowledge and expertise in the team and lending practical tips from frontline caregivers, franchise managers, and award-winning occupational therapist and dementia care expert Dr. Heather McKay.

Program Evaluation Results
The research team (Dr. McKay in collaboration with students and faculty at Duke Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program) completed a mixed-methods study with positive results across a diverse sample of home care workers.

DementiaWise (DW) training was positively associated with higher self-efficacy among home care team members at ComForCare, as the odds of higher self-efficacy in those who watched/rewatched DW were 1.6 times the odds of higher self-efficacy than those who had not yet watched DW.

DementiaWise (DW) training was positively associated with higher satisfaction among home care team members at ComForCare, as the odds of higher satisfaction in those who watched DW were 2.2 times the odds of higher satisfaction in those who had not yet watched DW.
For more detailed study results, please go to: http://comforcare.com/dementia-care.

Participants attributed the positive outcomes to specific features of the program, including an emphasis on communication, helping clients live life to the fullest, seeing clients in their totality, and developing soft skills for caregiving on a team.

Dr. McKay said, "With the new DementiaWise® program, home care agencies are empowering caregivers to engage with families and colleagues in a collaborative process of collecting knowledge (both information and hands-on skills), sharing it with each other, and calling on it to resolve everyday challenges in the home with teamwork."

"As the demand for high-quality in-home dementia care grows, the home care industry must respond with data-driven evaluations, which demonstrate the impact of different on-the-job training programs and inform future workforce development. In doing so, ComForCare is actively creating a more dementia-capable workforce and supporting people living with the disease and their families to live longer, safer, and happier in their communities, improving life for everyone involved," said a ComForCare representative.

DementiaWise training is available on-demand for ComForCare agencies nationwide and Best Life Brands partners. To find the nearest office, visit comforcare.com/locator.

About ComForCare Home Care:
ComForCare is a premier franchised provider of in-home caregiving services with more than 215 independently-owned and operated locations in the U.S. and Canada helping older adults live independently in their own homes. ComForCare is committed to helping people live their best lives possible and offers special programs, including fall risk prevention, dementia care, meaningful activities, and Joyful Memories music. Founded in 1996, ComForCare was acquired by private equity firm The Riverside Company in 2017 and is now part of Best Life Brands, which has plans for continued expansion of service brands across the continuum of care for aging adults. ComForCare operates as At Your Side Home Care in Houston. ComForCare has earned a ranking of 291 on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list. For more information, visit comforcare.com

About Partnerships for Health:
Managed by Dr. Heather McKay, Partnerships for Health is a consulting company offering education and consultation to individuals, families, and organizations dealing with dementia. Dr. McKay is an occupational therapist, dementia care specialist, and international trainer and speaker on topics related to dementia care and caregiver education. In 2016, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America named Heather "Dementia Care Professional of the Year." Since 2019, Heather and ComForCare have enjoyed a partnership, and together produced the highest quality dementia care education for home care employees, clients, and local communities. Learn more about Dr. McKay and dementia care education at www.pfhnc.com

SOURCE ComForCare Home Care