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Baycrest delivers first international webinar on psychogeriatric issues

By Amanda Paterson

Participants from seventeen countries logged into the International Psychogeriatric Association’s (IPA) first international webinar in April to hear experts from Baycrest Health Sciences discuss best practices for managing aggression and agitation in older adults with dementia.

Resident aggression in long-term care facilities, most often related to dementia and other psychiatric illnesses, is one of the most complex and highly contentious issues in healthcare today. There are growing public concerns about the safety risks associated with prescribing off-label antipsychotic drugs to the elderly and calls for enhanced staff training in non-pharmacalogical behavioural management strategies.

Two of Baycrest’s leading psychiatrists in the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), Drs. Robert Madan and David Conn, delivered the one-hour webinar presentation to healthcare professionals in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, China, the U.S., Israel, Germany, India, Iran, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the U.K. An IPA needs assessment determined that BPSD is one of the highest priority topics.

Baycrest is a global leader in innovations in aging and brain health, and a partner with the Ontario Government in the Behavioural Supports Ontario initiative to build capacity (specialized skills) for those on the frontlines of caring for older adults exhibiting challenging behaviours related to dementia. The IPA’s international webinar was a stellar example of leveraging telehealth technology to improve late-life health on an international scale.

The estimated number of people with dementia is rising significantly, according to a 2009 World Alzheimer Report. Seniors are increasingly entering long-term care facilities older, sicker and frailer than previous generations of residents. As a result, these individuals are increasingly exhibiting behaviours such as aggression, agitation and anxiety.

“The tremendous response to the webinar clearly demonstrates the demand for specialized skills training to enhance patient care and overall safety in long-term care environments,” said Dr. Conn, vice-president of Education at Baycrest, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health.

Those linking in to the virtual presentation included psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, psychologists and geriatricians. The post-webinar feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the learnings are already being put to good use.

“BPSD is a common and complex problem where there is no one simple solution or treatment. Our intent with this webinar was to provide knowledge and practical tools that could be applied immediately,” said Dr. Madan, chief of psychiatry at Baycrest.

The webinar was conducted using Adobe Connect, easily accessed from Dr. Conn’s desktop. This platform allows for live engagement tools, such as surveys and polling. “Engagement is the key,” said Dr. Conn, “You must work harder to engage an audience you can’t see than if you were in the same room.”

Webinar participants were presented with case studies and polled on the approach they might take.

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