The number of people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is expected to triple by 2050, and the latest research from the Alzheimer’s Association shows that half of medical providers are not prepared to care for them.
Now, new recommendations from a National Institutes of Health working group on dementia call for more evidence-based workforce training to meet the growing demands for dementia care.
The recommendations, which were recently made available open access in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, are designed to guide future research and training at institutions of higher education that train all levels of the health care workforce.
In Georgia, there could be as many as 250,000 people with mild to moderate dementia, according to University of Georgia professor Toni Miles, who served on the working group.
Miles studies dementia and end of life care at UGA’s College of Public Health.
“Also, we are a retirement destination state,” said Miles. “The migration of a high-risk population coupled with a large existing population makes training the health care workforce a critical part of Georgia’s future and worth the investment of state resources.”
There has been a consistent call in Georgia for more training, said Miles, who in addition to the NIH working group served on the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementia Task Force.
Current dementia training in Georgia and nationwide is segmented and often relegated to specialties that regularly treat older patients.
This is problematic, said Miles, because anyone working in health care needs to think of dementia as a possible complication.
“At each stage of their careers, it is a priority that training of the workforce includes a routine look at a patient’s memory capacity and ability to articulate concepts. Limiting dementia to a specialty care scenario creates a barrier to optimal training and ultimately, quality patient care,” she said.
The NIH working group outlined four critical areas where research is needed:
- Recruitment and retention of a dementia-capable workforce.
- Financing and cost of workforce education and training.
- Interprofessional education and training for care coordination and management.
- Translation and implementation of effective dementia.
The knowledge gained from this research can then be translated into evidence-based workforce development and practice standards taught in higher education settings.
In Georgia, Miles recommends that as evidence-based dementia care training becomes available, it should be rolled out in the state’s four medical schools, technical colleges and in programs for clinical psychology and social work.
“Training needs to emphasize the importance of thinking, ‘Does this patient have signs of dementia?’ If the answer is possibly, then the health care provider can design a care plan that takes into account dementia and the needed support to facilitate a successful outcome,” said Miles.
The full recommendations are outlined in “Critical Workforce Gaps in Dementia Care and Training.”