Laura Booi has been outspoken advocate and research for dementia related issues for the past decade. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Gerontology at Simon Fraser University. Her dissertation research is focused on sustainable ways of improving long-term, residential care for persons living with dementia from the perspective of the care aide.
On an international level, Laura also a founding member for the World Young Leaders in Dementia (WYLD). This network includes more than 300 members across six continents, the young leaders – most of whom are under the age of 39 – are mobilizing to drive forward creative new solutions for people with dementia, their care-partners and their communities.
The Aching Backbone of Dementia Care: The Role of Care Aides in Long-term Residential Care
Context: There continues to be a dearth of research focused on the perceptions of assistant personal, or care aides in long-term residential care (LTRC). Care aides provide upwards of 90% of the direct care for residents in LTRC and thus hold great potential in improving residents’ quality of life. It has long been established that most residents in LTRC are persons living with dementia. This doctoral dissertation examines the perceptions held by care aides towards their role as carers to residents in LTRC, especially persons living with dementia, across the contexts of personal, interpersonal, and organizational levels, while considering the broader social-political-economic context of LTRC.
Methods: Data sources for this qualitative, multi-method study include 70 hours of semi-structured interviews with 36 Care Aides working in one LTRC setting in British Columbia, Canada. Group workshops, participant observations and interviews with the management team were additional sources of data.
Results: The information generated from this study has identified ways in which care aides in LTRC conceptualize their role as dementia carers, the barriers and facilitators they perceive pertaining to their delivery of care and the prevention of abuse within these settings. Findings show that social and cultural aspects of teamwork and staff morale have strong influences on care aides’ reported perceptions towards their role as dementia carers, their co-workers, the residents they care for as well as the reporting of abuse. Nearly all care aides reported having witnessed multiple incidences of abuse as well as deciding against reporting, most for fear of detrimental outcomes to themselves or other members of the care staff team. Reported staff morale among care aides is low, with feelings of disempowerment and disenfranchisement within their care team and the greater society.
Conclusion: Care aides are often overlooked by educational interventions but if empowered, they have the potential to vastly improve the culture of care within LTRC environments. Attempts to empower care aides within LTRC should focus on creating organizational cultures that promote high morale and collaboration of all members of the care staff including care aides themselves.