Twenty-five leaders in the fight against dementia met at James L. West Center for Dementia Care on June 25 to form the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex’s first and only Dementia Education Advisory Board. Their purpose is to prepare the area for what James L. West Center Chairman of the Board Randall Johnson called “the Senior Tsunami.”
Johnson thanked the advisory board for the dramatic impact their service will have on the epidemic of dementia that is facing our area, our nation and the entire world.
Johnson joined with West Center CEO Cheryl Harding in challenging the advisory board to combine and align resources that will collectively enhance the next level of care provided for dementia patients and their families. After all, when one family member experiences dementia, the entire family shares in the disease.
The West Center’s mission has been to elevate the quality of dementia care through training the existing and emerging professional caregivers, as well as family members who care for loved ones in their homes. The next step is training nurses, physicians and the next generation of healthcare professionals.
“We’ve been caring for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients for over 25 years and our caregiver program is addressing the residential side” said Johnson. “With the rapidly increasing number of families dealing with dementia, we have realized there is far more to this disease than anyone could ever have projected. We must take our education further.”
The group assembled for the meeting included representatives from hospitals, universities, physician groups, Fort Worth ISD, governmental agencies and nonprofits that deal with aging, because dementia has been officially proclaimed a public health crisis.
The West Center assembled the Dementia Education Advisory Board to take the lead on bringing collaborators and stakeholders to the table. The attendees saw videos from Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Pete Geren, executive director of the Sid Richardson Foundation, who both encouraged them to discover breakthroughs to help families deal with this major issue.
In 2011, the Sid Richardson Foundation saw the need to train caregivers to assist families caring for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in their homes. Their initial funding to create the center’s Dementia and Caregiver Education Program has led to over 22,000 caregivers and family members learning how to provide compassionate care for loved ones impacted by dementia-related illnesses.
The foundation is partnering again with the center’s leadership to launch the North Texas region’s only Dementia Enhanced Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, which will provide program graduates with an elevated level of dementia training. In addition to the training of CNA students, the program will feature a three-tier dementia certification for current health care professionals who are interested in receiving extensive dementia education and training.
The Dementia Education Advisory Board is overseeing the educational component of both the CNA Program and the dementia certificate as part of the group’s objective to partner with the West Center to create innovative programs that teach health care professionals about dementia.
“We’re seeing the aging population integrate into every single medical practice – this is not limited to geriatrics,” said Dr. Janice Knebl, the founding medical director of the West Center and interim chair of internal medicine and geriatrics at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth. “You would be amazed at the number of medical professionals who do not know the details about dementia. Offering a dementia-centric protocol will open up opportunities on the career ladder for medical professionals graduating with this dementia certification.”
As a nonprofit, the West Center is able to fulfill its mission of providing individualized care and support to enhance the quality and dignity of each person’s life throughout the course of the disease. The Center’s is the only Alzheimer’s certified nursing center in Texas that offers a full-service education and community outreach program.