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AGE Inc. improves long-term care with Gentle Persuasive Approaches.

Every day at 2:55 p.m., Susan, who lives with dementia, would become upset and incessantly pace around her long-term care home, insistent on leaving.

With the staff unable to help Susan feel better, a personal support worker decided to investigate further. After calling on her family and asking a few questions, the likely reason behind her behaviour was clear — she used to pick up her grandkids from the bus stop every weekday at 2:55 p.m.

The next time Susan was upset and showed these behaviours, the support worker calmed her by assuring the kids would be picked up by their mother that day.

By digging deeper into her past, getting to know her and thinking outside the box, the support worker was able to validate Susan’s feelings and help to comfort her.

Giving this type of person-centred care is exactly what AGE Inc. teaches health-care professionals to do.

What is AGE Inc.?

Advanced Gerontological Education (AGE) Inc. is a national not-for-profit social enterprise steadfast in enriching the lives of people living with dementia.

Founded in 1997 and based in Hamilton, AGE’s 13-person team serves people across Canada, providing Gentle Persuasive Approaches (GPA) training to health-care professionals and others working with persons living with dementia, including personal support workers, housekeepers and volunteers.

What is GPA training?

Evidence-based, interactive and practical, GPA training teaches that each person living with dementia is a unique human being still capable of interacting with the world.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

“The training teaches care providers that responsive and protective behaviours in those living with dementia are results of unmet needs,” says AGE’s Executive Director, April Morganti.

“We teach people to understand that every behaviour has meaning … and how to respond in a way that is respectful to the client, resident or person they're working with.”

AGE offers GPA courses in several formats, including in a traditional classroom setting, an online class, independent eLearning and a blended option.

Supported by slides, interpersonal activities and case-based scenarios, the course teaches:

  • An introduction to dementia and person-centred care.
  • An overview of the relationship between the disease process and behavioural responses.
  • Interpersonal communication strategies to prevent and ease responsive behaviours.
  • Appropriate protective techniques to use when a person is expressing responsive behaviours.

In addition to training, AGE hosts 15-hour coaching workshops where professionals can become certified to teach GPA to others using AGE’s curriculum.

This coaching program ensures program sustainability for health-care organizations. GPA CCs are agents of practice change, selected by their organization to coach and support care providers to apply GPA principles and strategies ongoing, on-site, beyond the classroom setting and at the point of care.

“GPA gives people those things in their toolbox to recognize [responsive behaviours] and respond appropriately."

– Lisa Wauchope, AGE Inc. Education and Training Specialist

Making a difference

Lisa Wauchope, AGE’s Education and Training Specialist, champions GPA training for all health-care professionals seeking new ways of improving the care they provide to make a difference in the lives of people living with dementia.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The training makes a difference by:

  • Providing tools

“GPA gives people those things in their toolbox to recognize [responsive behaviours] and respond appropriately,” Wauchope says. For example, when a resident refuses to shower, the care provider can learn about the resident’s love of lavender and can perhaps persuade them to shower with lavender-scented body wash.

  • Empowering health-care professionals

The training not only helps professionals do their jobs, but also increases their senses of self-value and confidence. AGE consistently evaluates trainees to ensure they are learning and feel empowered by the program, Morganti says.

“We are constantly doing research and looking at people’s self-efficacy from pre-training and post-training and ensuring that we can continually support those working with people with dementia.”

  • Improving quality of life

Care professionals who implement one of AGE’s top philosophies — to include persons living with dementia by getting to know them, hearing their voices and learning about their lived experiences — can have tremendous impacts on the well-being of persons living with dementia, as was shown in Susan’s case.

"People see the disease and they don't always see the human behind it ... We want to make a difference."

– April Morganti, AGE Inc. Executive Director

Addressing the need for growth

As dementia rates increase in Canada and around the world, there is a growing need for education and training to improve care.

“People living with dementia are living in shelters, in their own homes, in foster care, in supportive housing buildings, and the list goes on,” says Wauchope. “Dementia transcends geography, culture, socioeconomic levels, and permeates society as an absolute whole.”

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Furthermore, Wauchope says the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for better care for persons already living with dementia in long-term care homes.

“A lot of people are in isolation, not well and confused by what is happening,” she says.

But with a track record of having trained over half a million health-care professionals, combined with having about two thousand GPA coaches helping to spreading the word, AGE is in a better position than ever to reach its goal of spreading GPA to address the growing need.

Plus, since expanding online accessibility during the pandemic, AGE has opened the doors to GPA training for care homes looking to provide basic dementia instruction to staff, professionals in rural communities, care providers who lack time to train, and to all others who seek it.

Morganti reinforces that the most important reason AGE Inc. works tirelessly to train health-care professionals is to help people living with dementia.

“People see the disease and they don't always see the human behind it,” she says. “We're here, we want to help and we want to make a difference.”

Note: Susan’s name has been changed for privacy purposes.


Read more about AGE Inc. or access a GPA training course.