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BLOOMINGTON — A career center in Bloomington is working to meet the growing health care needs for our aging population.
Hoosier Hills Career Center is located in Monroe County and currently serves around 700 students. Students come from a wide variety of area high schools spanning several counties including Monroe, Morgan and Owen. They have more than 30 career pathway opportunities including one unique opportunity for health science students to earn certification in Alzheimer's and dementia training.
It all started as a pilot program and a partnership between the center and IU Health Bloomington.
"We had a conversation almost two years ago about the need for improving health care across the board," Christie McBride, director of Hoosier Hills Career Center, said.
So with Alzheimer's Educators with IU Health, Amanda Mosier and Dayna Thompson, they created a training program aimed to give caregivers specific skills for working with people living with memory loss.
As a result of the pilot program, this training is now is at four career centers regionally, which serve 27 high schools.
"So when we visit these classes and we ask how many of you know someone living with dementia or how many of you are helping care for someone living with dementia...about half the class raises their hands already," Amanda Mosier. with IU Health Bloomington, said.
Students travel to assisted living facilities and get paired up with the residents as part of this training. They get to know the resident on a personal level, and develop a care plan for the residents based on their needs. The care plan focuses on the memories they still have rather than focusing on what that person has lost to dementia.
"It's not so much what our kids learn and the skills, -that's a great part of it," says McBride. "But the fact that they have those connections to the adults struggling with dementia, that's when you see that you really get it."
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Students learn not only the skillset for working with people living with dementia, but hands-on experience helps them with compassion and the human connection part of the job. They also take part in virtual dementia tours so they can better relate to the residents.
"We see such a need working with the long term care community. Whether it's facilities or home care, there is just such a lack of caregivers and also caregivers that really understand dementia," Dayna Thompson, educator for IU Health Bloomington, said. "And I think that it's really amazing that we are watching health care change right before our very eyes."
Autie Page is a student going through this program at Hoosier Hills. She says the dementia training part of the program and working with the residents has had the biggest impact on her.
Hoosier Hills recently won an award for this program from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce called the Leading Light award for the work they are doing to impact the community.