While there are over 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s today, there are 16 million more caring for loved ones affected. Added to that number are the many paid health professionals who provide care and support for the 24/7 management often required. 

In the Coachella Valley, it is estimated that over 50,000 are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia-related disease through diagnosis or care; however, training and certification for care has never been offered locally, until now.

Alzheimers Coachella Valley (ACV) which is located in Palm Desert and serves the entire valley is now offering an innovative program for caregivers to earn ACV Dementia Care Training Certification. The courses are state-approved continuing education units (CEU) for professionals and are being offered free of charge during an inaugural period.

The classes are open to both paid professionals and family caregivers. Professional caregivers will learn the best practices to care for clients and earn CEU; family caregivers will learn how to be better prepared to care for loved ones including planning the day, mealtimes, communication, and more. In addition to learning about Alzheimer’s symptoms and stages, the courses will also cover other forms of dementia such as vascular, Lewy bodies, fronto-temporal, Korsakoff’s syndrome, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

With the rising number of people affected by Alzheimer’s/dementia in the valley, there is a great need for this specialized training locally. Prior to this, most certified nursing assistants and nursing staff had to go outside the valley to obtain CEU.

The course has been developed and will be taught by Edwina Dirk, RN, who is an educator at California Nurses Educational Institute. “The importance of these classes is to give you the confidence to know how to care for your loved one or clients with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Dirk. “Professionals have a resource to refer families to a support group as well.”

ACV Support Group Facilitator Chuck Olsen said, “I’m glad professional dementia training classes are available for family caregivers, too. Certain topics are appropriate for them, and I will encourage my support group to attend.”

Classes are held the last Thursday of each month, 5:30 to 6:30 pm, at the ACV office in Palm Desert. There are different topics each month in the 27-course program including caring for clients in various stages of Alzheimer’s and related dementias; communicating with patients during all stages of Alzheimer’s; planning a day; providing meals, and more. Particularly important for professional caregivers working in a memory care or nursing home environment are classes addressing paranoid, combative, aggressive, unpredictable and inappropriate behavior. For in-home care professionals, important topics include recognizing patient abuse and mandated reporting, as well as recognizing and managing caregiver stress. One CEU hour is awarded per class.

The next classes are May 31 and June 28. Advanced registration is required as seating is limited.

For more information contact Alzheimers Coachella Valley at (760) 776.3100 or stop by the office at 42-600 Cook Street, Ste. 125, Palm Desert, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to pick up a registration form. Visit www.cvalzheimers.org.

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