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Demands of memory care homes require special skill and attitude

Nursing homes in Illinois that provide services for those with cognitive impairment face special challenges. State and federal laws may require a certain patient to staff ratio in a care setting. Those on staff also must meet certain certifications of skill. However, as a wise old doctor once observed, "The person who graduates med school with straight A's doesn't necessarily make the best doctor."

The same can be said for those in the nursing home care arena. Just because a person is certified doesn't mean they are equipped for the challenges they might face in the labor force. Registered nurses are usually required staff. However, because they command high pay, there may be only one or two in administrative roles. Licensed Practical Nurses might provide improved care, but again, they are often supervisors.

In many, if not most, settings, the certified nursing assistant is doing the job of hands on care. Obtaining certification does require a person to have completed an approved training program and passed a written exam. That ostensibly assures they have basic nursing skills, but because pay tends to be low, turn over in the work force is high. In addition, just because a person has his or her certification doesn't mean they have the mindset for working with memory care residents.

It's because of that last factor that a senior living industry magazine recently offered readers a primer on strategies for hiring the right staff. The first tip given would seem to go without saying. It is that instead of relying just on confirming certification and a good interview performance, hiring managers should take prospects through the dementia unit and observe how they react. If they fail to visibly connect with residents, they probably aren't right for the job. Specific characteristics to watch for would include patience, openness, creativity and empathy.

As a law practice with experience in helping victims of nursing home abuse or neglect, it occurs to us that this is information that anyone with a loved one in a care facility could find helpful if negligence or abuse are suspected. Observations about staff could augment physical signs of trouble in residents, such as malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores or sudden behavior changes.

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