3 Reasons Why “Dementia Education” Must Be About More than Dementia

3 Reasons Why “Dementia Education” Must Be About More than Dementia

Written by Allison Ciborowski

Since 1999, The Integrace Institute at Copper Ridge has been known for our rigorous and relevant continuing education programs for healthcare professionals, as well as our practical resources for family caregivers. Throughout the years, some of our most popular programs have included the much loved DVD “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease”; the CD-ROM training program sold by Lippincott, “The Dementia Care Certification Course”; and our monthly lecture series, “Dementia Care Grand Rounds”. Each of these programs provided needed information and support to countless individuals. Each program also focused largely on care practices. In line with our new philosophy of supporting personally meaningful living for each individual, our view of traditional dementia education is shifting to focus on the person and their unique traits and abilities. Here are three reasons why we believe that “dementia education” must be about more than dementia.

1. People with dementia are more than a disease, and do more than “receive care”. So, our education must provide information about more than just dementia and care. How silly it would seem if we went around identifying each other by our needs or diagnosis. “Hi, I’m Allison. I’m a migraine patient.” Yet we do this all the time when referring to the residents in our communities or the patients in our care. If we truly want to promote independence, dignity, and meaningful living for every person, not just those with the ability to advocate for themselves, then we must stop defining individuals with dementia by their care needs and diagnosis. Our new learning opportunities aim to help shift this paradigm, one experience at a time.

2. People with dementia are unique individuals, and do not exist in a vacuum. There are a myriad of factors that affect the way each of us lives. Having dementia or being of a certain age does not automatically enroll someone in an affinity group. We each have unique life experiences, preferences, gifts, talents, beliefs, and relationships that shape who we are and how we live our lives. You’ll find that our new learning opportunities focus on building empathy and understanding for the points of views of those around us; including peers, residents/patients, and families. We hope to help each person think more critically about what may be at play in another person’s life, to always withhold judgement, and to take time to systematically evaluate challenges.

3. Developing critical, transferable skills is necessary if we want to go beyond “what we’ve always done”. Thinking outside of the box takes a different skill set than that required to complete set tasks. In traditional top-down medical models, those closest to the patient were not always encouraged to find new and better ways to do things. Nursing assistants and other direct-care individuals were traditionally given very basic, and limited opportunities to learn how to work with individuals with dementia that often stopped with basic explanations about the brain and how to approach someone with a memory impairment. Our new programs go beyond information about disease processes. Each of our courses, whatever the topic, aims to build creative critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, communication, and conflict resolution skills. We believe that these key skills provide a base on which any individual can learn to apply the complex knowledge and abilities needed to support personally meaningful living for each person in their care.


I invite you to join us on this exciting journey. We hope that our new focus, built on adult-learning methodologies, and brought to life by expert facilitators will do more than just educate, and truly help people learn.


Allison Ciborowski is Director of Dementia Education at the Integrace Institute at Copper Ridge.

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