Direct care team (DCT) staff are not typically looking to run a program. Rather, the people who interview for these roles tend to desire from their core to take care of people—a driving quality that is wonderful to harness in dementia care. But this predisposition to caring isn’t enough to fuel the success of an assisted living facility for persons with dementia (ALFPD), nor is experience doing so in other environments or programs sufficient. The DCT must be trained on how to care for people with dementia, and through that process, members will learn that they need to do things a bit differently than they have in the past—a prospect that can be frightening.
For example, management in other settings often recognize DCT staff for doing a great job taking care of their residents. They may earn praise for selecting a matching outfit for a resident or for helping someone else to eat. But in an ALFPD, managers may ask staff to “do” less for residents to empower them to be more self-dependent. For instance, a staff member’s regular encouragement of a resident to participate in the process of dressing for the day may prompt the individual to pick out and put on a pair of socks when the staff isn’t present. This is a far greater testament to the team member’s effective care than if he or she had chosen the socks and helped the resident put them on quickly.
Many DCT staff who join an ALFPD have historically been praised for their attentiveness, and although this continues to be an important attribute in a dementia care program, they must learn to
temper it with patience, allowing residents to accomplish tasks independently, even if they struggle. Striking this balance takes practice, but the more that staff succeed, the more that their confidence and skill will grow. To reinforce effective approaches and encourage progress in this area, the leadership team should be specific when praising staff members and pointing out successes.