Simulation for caregivers


By Mark Witten

Last September, Alzheimer’s care consultant Claire Webster shared evidence-based knowledge and lessons learned from her experience as a former caregiver to her late mother during two innovative pilot workshops held at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning (SCSIL). The pilot project was developed with the goal of educating and supporting caregivers who are looking after a family member afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia-related illness, and was the result of a collaboration between Webster and the staff at the SCSIL as well as Olivia Monton, BSc’12, BSc(AgEnvSc)’16, candidate of the Medicine Class of 2020, and Dr. Olivier Beauchet, Dr. Joseph Kaufmann Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Director of the RUIS (Réseau Universitaire Intégré de Santé) McGill Centre of Excellence on Longevity at the Jewish General Hospital.

“I wasn’t given a prescription of care by the doctor for my mother or for myself after she was diagnosed in 2006. For the next six years, I got caught up in a cyclone of caregiving and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. I developed this workshop to educate family members on the most important things they need to know and to prepare them for the journey of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, including how to avoid caregiver burnout,” says Webster, who plans to hold more workshops at the SCSIL in the year ahead.

One of the workshop’s most compelling features is the simulated episode, written by Webster, that takes place in the simulated apartment and aims to teach family members how to keep their loved ones safe at home.

Alzheimer’s care consultant Claire Webster in the simulated apartment at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning. (Diane Weidner)

During the scenario, standardized patients (individuals who are trained to portray real patients) enact common, potentially dangerous behaviours like leaving an iron unattended in the bedroom or mistaking a tube of cortisone for toothpaste. “People who attended the workshops loved the simulation of safety tips and were incredibly grateful for all the useful information they received. They were also grateful to me because I lived the journey,” says Webster, who believes the first step in the caregiving journey can be greatly improved by educating all medical students to write prescriptions of care for the families of loved ones who develop dementia.


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