Dementia recently claimed the life of legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt. A new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds. It's estimated that the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030. With the demand for dementia care rising, there is a need to know more about the treatment, not just of the illness itself, but of those impacted by it. With an eye towards helping those who help dementia sufferers, the Illinois State University Mennonite College of Nursing recently launched a research project about nursing care knowledge and attitudes towards patients with dementia.
Conducted at the Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa, the research was lead by Nursing Assistant Professor Sheri Kelly and Professor Mary Dyck. Their focus was on nursing care knowledge and attitudes towards residents with dementia. "We wanted to see if we could upgrade dementia care," explained Mary Dyck, who also serves on the board of the retirement community.
As part of the research, the nursing staff at the retirement community took a pretest, then participated in a simulation in which they provided care to an actor who was playing the part of a patient with dementia. The origin of this research was in the dissertation of Shari Kelly, who wanted to see how simulation impacted the knowledge levels and attitudes of nursing students. Beyond the ivy covered wall of ISU, Kelly saw her work could have practical applications in the real world. "We saw my dissertation as a great educational opportunity for staff in the long term care setting," she said.
Following the pretest and simulation, participants then took part in a debriefing, which held a few surprises for the researchers. "I was surprised at how little the nurses knew about delirium," said Mary Dyck. "Delerium is acute confusion that particularly older adults get during an infection or some other kind of problem. It's an acute problem, whereas dementia is a long term problem. When they both happen, you're more confused then typical. So I felt that it was a win-win for the nursing staff in building their knowledge about this issue."