Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects the mind, and requires specialised care. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, or loss of intellectual function, among people aged 65 and older (Alzheimer’s Association, 2015). The progression of the disease is variable with each patient, and therefore requires different kinds of specialised care at various stages.
Nurses, as with doctors, can choose their specialization. Alzheimer’s and dementia is one such specialisation, and something nurses in all walks of life need to closely heed. Nurses are oftentimes the first to diagnose a potential dementia or Alzheimer’s case when in contact with a patient in hospitals, clinics or during check-ups or procedures. All forms of training include some education around identifying dementia and Alzheimer’s, but not all nurses are qualified in Alzheimer’s care.
One of the most important qualities of an Alzheimer’s nurse is communication. Patience is a close second. Communication skills are necessary not only to communicate with the patient, but also the family members.
The educational nursing path for those choosing to work in a specialized dementia or Alzheimer’s unit instead of a traditional setting is also slightly different.
In order to specialise, individuals must first complete their Bachelor of Science degree with a major in nursing. This qualifies them as a Registered Nurse at which point they can start getting clinical experience. But that is still not enough to be considered a specialised Alzheimer’s nurse.
Additional education and specialisation
While getting clinical experience is very important, they also need to advance their education before they can become a mental health nurse practitioner and specialist. For those who want to specialize in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s in-depth, taking a program majoring in Psychiatric Nursing or Mental Health Nursing would be the appropriate path. Then once they have their graduate degree with a focus on Psychiatry, the next step would be to become board certified in psychiatric nursing.
A degree in social work is also highly beneficial, as the care is very “person centered”, but not a prerequisite.
In addition to a specialized degree, there are numerous diploma courses available for registered nurses, or existing caregivers to learn more about and specialise in dementia care, although those diplomas do not equal being a specialised Alzheimer’s nurse. It does provide a unique additional understanding as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.
There is a lot more involved with becoming a specialized Alzheimer’s or dementia nurse than many people understand, and there is a lot more involved in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease than purely physical comfort. Livewell is a specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care facility that provides qualified Alzheimer’s specialised nurses, traditional nursing care and companion carers for their residents. Livewell offers complete, tailored care for your senior loved one – mind and body. Speak to one of our family advisors about the options that are best suited to your family.