Mission Level Up: Dementia Awareness 

Cassandra holding her certification

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No matter the care setting, an extra level of expertise is needed when providing dementia care. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.7 million adults at the age of 65 or older are living with Alzheimer’s in 2023, which means 1 in 9 adults at the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s. After the age of 65, Alzheimer’s diagnosis doubles every 5 years. Cognitive decline, language and communication difficulties, difficulty with activities and daily living, social isolation, caregiver challenge, are just a few effects of dementia.  In Mission Health communities, it is our job to enhance the lives of those we serve.   How can we continue to positively impact those struggling with dementia? 
Mission Health’s education team was put to the test to develop new, meaningful care practices and interventions for both residents and staff. Once such initiative included offering an advanced dementia care certification to a key member of the nursing education team.  The goal was to not only provide an additional layer of expertise for the team, but to enable a train-the trainer approach to support other communities throughout the organization.   
Cassandra Stephens, a Regional Educator for Mission Health, was recently awarded her advanced dementia certification by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. I had the great opportunity to sit down with Cassandra to learn more about her experience, what she learned during her training, and what she plans to do to support our residents with dementia and their families.  
Q: How has completing the dementia certification program enhanced your understanding of dementia and its impact on individuals and their families? 
The program teaches an understanding of how to foster sensitivity and respect for our residents that are living with illnesses that cause dementia. At Mission Health, we have made education a priority, and this seminar and certification is one more way to enhance our knowledge and skills so that we can provide excellent service to our residents and families. 
Q: How do you plan to educate and support your colleagues or students regarding dementia care based and challenges of individuals with dementia? 
As a Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer, I can provide the comprehensive Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care (ADDC) curriculum to Mission Health’s professionals, front line staff and students. The ADDC curriculum is the required seminar for those who qualify and are interested in pursuing a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) certification. Though not everyone may qualify for the CDP certification, everyone can benefit from the training.
Q: Since completing your certification, how do you plan to incorporate person-centered care principles into your CNA and CMA courses? 
Being a Certified Dementia Practitioner will help me to provide fundamental knowledge on dementia and dementia care to those that have chosen to join the Mission family as a student. By providing high standards of education it will improve the quality of life of our residents living with dementia. 

Mission Health strives to be the best in the profession and steps up when it comes to our residents and their families. Cassandra and a Mission Health community, Twin View Health and Rehab in Georgia has been awarded a scholarship to participate in “Dementia: Beyond Drugs; changing the culture of care” training from The Culture Change Network of Georgia (CCNG) and The Gerontology Institute of Georgia State University. The training will take place over a course of seven weeks where participants will learn how to decrease reliance on antipsychotic and psychotropic medications, identify the limitations of our current approach to care for those living with dementia, improve communication and promote positive, affirming interaction, and much more. This not only provides advanced training and valuable experiences for staff, but also meaningful advancement within their chosen career path.  All of Mission Health, especially the education team is extremely proud of Cassandra for going the extra mile to educate and inform our communities about caring for residents with dementia.  
“Congratulations to Cassie and everyone at Twin View for being awarded an honorable task in teaching our communities to provide higher quality care for our residents with dementia. This provides the perfect example of our CARES values. Character—taking the initiative to provide higher education to Mission employees. Attitude—Looking for more ways to improve quality of life for residents. Respect—ensuring resident families are satisfied knowing we are exceeding their expectations. Excellence—working incredibly hard to be recognized amongst our peers. Service—finding the missing link and going the extra mile to educate the rest of our communities for specialized care with dementia.” -Stuart Lindeman, President and CEO, Mission Health. 

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