USI Center For Healthy Aging And Wellness Receives Grant To Enhance Workforce Development In Indiana Nursing Homes


The University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness has received a $789,800 grant from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to fund dementia care training for nursing home staff members in Indiana. The project, Building a Dementia-Competent Nursing Home Workforce, is a collaboration with Teepa Snow and her company, Positive Approach® to Care (PAC), to improve the lives of people living with dementia and transform the culture of dementia care.

Snow, an occupational therapist from North Carolina, developed the PAC training model to support a skills-based approach to dementia education. She has had a five-year relationship with USI in the area of dementia care and education. The current project will focus on nursing home staff with three goals: building a dementia-competent certified nursing assistant (CNA) workforce by offering opportunities to embed the PAC training model into 25 CNA schools state-wide; integrating PAC curriculum into new staff orientation in Indiana nursing homes; and developing an advanced course for current PAC-certified trainers and coaches in Indiana nursing homes.

In 2016, USI received ISDH funding to partner with PAC for a “train the trainer” project involving 12 nursing homes in southwest Indiana. Following the training, a PAC Certified Independent Trainer and Coach from each participating nursing home conducted a series of in-services on dementia for other staff members. Topics included understanding brain change, difference between normal and not normal aging, the Positive Physical Approach™ and other care techniques, reframing challenging behaviors and caring for the caregiver

Efficacy of knowledge gained and perceptions changed among nursing home staff members involved with the project is reported in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. A USI-led research team worked with Positive Approach to Care to write the manuscript.

“USI is fortunate to have a partnership with Teepa’s Positive Approach to Care where we can continue to collaborate to improve the lives of people living with dementia in Indiana,” said Dr. Katie Ehlman, associate professor of gerontology and director of the Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness. “We know a project like this has the potential to make a difference state-wide in developing and expanding caregiver skills.”

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 110,000 Indiana residents are currently living with dementia, and that number is expected to increase to 130,000 by 2025. The complexity of needs among people living with dementia in skilled nursing facilities presents challenges for nursing home staff members where knowledge about dementia varies among staff members.

“Developing a workforce with a depth of dementia-related knowledge and the skills to train and coach others who care for elders in nursing homes is a necessary response to the projected number of Indiana residents who may need formal nursing home care over the next 30 years,” said Ehlman.

Providing support and care for someone living with dementia, from early symptoms to end of life is neither simple, nor impossible, according to Snow. “Better quality dementia care requires that each care provider develop awareness of the condition and its ever-changing status, knowledge of each person and his or her individual needs and preferences, and interactive and care-related skills to make life worth living for those living with dementia, until life ends,” she said. “With USI and the state of Indiana, we have shown that PAC trainers and coaches can, and do, make a difference when helping staff become the care providers that are needed for those living with dementia.”

Snow is most widely known for her creation of the award-winning DVD, Accepting the Challenge: Providing the Best Care for People with Dementia. Her GEMS® State Model for understanding progression and change in ability, combined with PAC techniques, form effective strategies to support those living with dementia and optimize care.

Applications are now being accepted for the three project areas. To be involved with the Building a Dementia-Competent Nursing Home Workforce project, visit


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