Every day, Circle of Care’s 1,000+ Personal Support Workers (PSWs) make their way throughout the community, providing care and support to seniors in their homes. And while the job at hand may sound routine, coming face to face with the ever-changing symptoms and impairments of an aging brain is anything but.
Helping PSWs understand the physiology behind dementia, mental illness and behaviour was the focus of Circle of Care’s recent learning event for all PSWs. Attendees at the annual event heard from Dr. Mark Lachmann, Geriatric Psychiatrist and Physician Lead at Bridgeport Active Healthcare, who spoke about the complex subject in a way that was engaging and relatable.
“My goal today is to help us learn together, and also to help you understand what is going on with your clients,” Dr. Lachmann told the group. “I want you to understand why your clients are feeling confused, and losing their memories and sometimes acting with anger or frustration.”
Since joining Sinai Health System in 2015, Circle of Care has partnered with Mount Sinai Hospital and Bridgepoint Active Healthcare on a number of initiatives that are improving the continuum of care for the populations we serve. “One of the best things about our affiliation with Sinai Health System is our access to resources and experts,” said Carey Lucki, CEO, Circle of Care, and VP, Sinai Health System. “Having access to experts like Dr. Lachmann, someone so well respected in his field, helps us excel as a learning organization by providing opportunities for our PSWs that support the daily work they do.”
A Problem With the Mail
During the session, Dr. Lachmann shared advice about caring for seniors with mental illness
and spoke candidly about the challenges of working with geriatric patients, drawing on his extensive experience in the field. Using interactive demonstrations that drew on audience participation, he explained the difference between dementia and delirium (two common conditions PSWs encounter in the community) with the concept of a dysfunctional post office. “In dementia, the mail doesn’t get from one part of the brain to the other. With delirium, the mail goes to all the wrong places,” he explained. “Most pathology in the brain is because there is a problem with the mail!”
While most people consider dementia to be an issue about memory loss, Dr. Lachman was quick to point out that for caregivers, the bigger issue has to do with behaviour. “It’s problems with language, or aggression or anxiety or wandering. In fact, the most common reason for admission to long-term care has to do with behavior issues that stem from dementia.”
This is where PSWs play such a pivotal role in the health care system, says Carey Lucki. “By having PSWs who are trained to respond to the needs of clients with dementia or mental illness, client needs are addressed more quickly, caregivers are able to get the respite they often desperately need, and clients are able to live longer lives in the community.”