FORT WORTH (1080 KRLD) - The James L. West Center for Dementia Care in Fort Worth will soon start a program to teach certified nursing assistants to specialize in care for people with dementia and Alzheimer's. The first class of ten people will start in January.
"Just ask anybody walking down the street if they know somebody who has dementia. Nine times out of ten, they're going to say they know someone or have cared for someone," says the center's chief executive, Cheryl Harding. "Dementia is more widespread because people are living longer. This affects everyone."
Harding says about 200 people applied. The center interviewed 63 candidates, and the ten finalists will start the program in January.
"We have a huge shortage of healthcare workers in the United States, and that does not exclude Fort Worth," she says.
Harding says the center is working with Fort Worth ISD to set up a healthcare program at North Side High School, but this will be the first program of its kind in Texas. She says the state requires 100 hours of training to become a certified nursing assistant but just one hour is required to be dedicated to dementia training.
"We feel like this is very unique in its approach," Harding says. "We don't have any other CNA courses in Texas that are doing the things we're doing with this one."
The course in Fort Worth will include 18 hours of training specific to working with patients who have dementia. Harding says CNAs who complete the training may seek to go on to become a registered nurse.
"We want that compassionate, loving, kind person who will enjoy caring for others," Harding says. "It's a very intimate position, a very intimate job. As the older population grows, as more people have dementia, that's in every area, not just in nursing centers."
The Sid Richardson Foundation provided funding for the program for two years. The West Center is also working with the Center for Transforming Lives, Women's Center of Tarrant County, Pathfinders of Tarrant County, Community Hospice of Texas, Trinity Terrace and Juliette Fowler senior center in Dallas to develop curriculum.
Harding says she hopes to add more space in future courses. She says this is the first program in Texas, and hospitals and long-term care facilities in other parts of the country have asked about developing similar programs of their own.