Quality staffing produces quality care. A contented staff elevates morale and instills loyalty, thus creating an overall positive environment which trickles down to consistent overall quality care of the residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

First and foremost, while skills can be taught, managers should hire people who are compassionate and have a genuine love of the older population, especially those affected by the disease.

Regular in-service training for all staff in all disciplines by reliable, professional trainers who specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia is imperative. Topics such as communication, behavior expressions and non-pharmacological interventions, person-centered care, family dynamics, conflict resolution, stress management and resident/staff safety and security should be included in staff orientation as well as being covered and discussed in quarterly and annual in-service trainings.

Quality care is person-centered, meaning the staff recognizes that the resident is at the center of the decision-making, that the staff and residents are equal partners in planning, developing and monitoring each resident’s care and particular needs.

All staff members should take a team approach, sharing information about the resident, his history, likes and dislikes, health issues, behavioral triggers, etc. Interdisciplinary meetings or weekly “huddles” are great forums to gather as team to discuss biographical background of the resident, family dynamics, health information and any other pertinent material necessary to provide premier care. These meetings help build strong bonds not only among the staff, but also strengthen staff and resident interpersonal relationships. Additionally, the meetings can involve the staff in decision-making, which empowers staff members to solve problems and issues that arise and to make recommendations on the proper course of care for the resident. This builds trust and self-esteem in all team members.

Consistent staffing assignments with the residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia is an excellent protocol in the long-term care setting. Affected individuals seek familiarity and require trust and having the same staff members assigned at each shift to the same residents will assist in creating a more comfortable and secure environment for them.

The management of the long-term care setting should be more of a mentoring nature than governorship. From the top down, the same philosophy of care should be understood and practiced every day.

Additionally, gratitude and appreciation need to be extended on a regular basis. People need to feel needed, and kind words, gestures, recognitions for a job well-done and even small tokens of thanks can go a long way in lifting and/or improving staff morale and will decrease staff turnover.

Nothing is as important or paramount in quality care than treating the residents with dignity and respect, and every staff member should recognize and appreciate the person behind the disease instead of looking at what the disease is doing to him/her.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC, at thememorywhisperer@gmail.com.