Wisdom from Experienced GNAs

Hello everyone,

A good rule to follow when teaching (especially when time is limited) is to first determine what your audience already knows. This way, you can meet them where they are and not only save time, but clarify misinformation and learn what to focus on and expand upon.

As one of the nurse facilitators for this study, I had the opportunity to speak with many of the GNAs from Brooke Grove Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Sandy Spring, MD. We calculated that between all of them, they have 309 YEARS of experience as nursing assistants! With experience comes knowledge, so I asked them to share their advice on how to manage residents with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. They came up with the 15 tips listed below, in no particular order:

  1. Offer a snack or drink to distract an upset resident.
  2. Ask a resident to tell you a story about their life.
  3. Don’t give up! Be persistent when trying to get a resident to attend an activity, get out of bed, take a shower, etc. You may need to leave and return later to ask again, but always ask again.
  4. Give them time. Don’t rush them.
  5. Be empathetic. Put yourselves in their shoes.
  6. Learn what they like and respect their preferences.
  7. Make sure they have their sensory aids on, like glasses and hearing aids.
  8. Make sure they are comfortable and safe.
  9. Work as a team.
  10. Be patient with residents.
  11. Communicate with the resident. Be sure you understand what they are trying to communicate to you.
  12. Smile! Try to keep a positive attitude. They will often reflect your attitude.
  13. Redirect when necessary. Introduce a new activity, or start a discussion about their interests.
  14. Know the resident’s routine and try to maintain it as best as possible.
  15. Listen to them. Sometimes they just want to talk to you about their troubles. They don’t always expect you to fix them, just to be heard.

As you can see, I was going to be “preaching to the choir”! They already knew much of what I had originally planned to discuss. So instead of listening to me lecture, they shared their successful strategies for working with specific residents with fellow GNAs, discussed how to overcome some barriers to implementing interventions, and how they could pass on their wisdom to new GNAs. The end result was a fruitful discussion that left them feeling appreciated, empowered, and ready to try some new things.

Thank you to the GNAs at Brooke Grove! We encourage our other communities in the study to give this a try and let us know how it goes!

Have a great week and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

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