Thursday, March 8, 2007

Online Training: One Solution for Quality Care
by Sharon Brothers, MSW

Assisted Living has been in the spotlight lately in both positive and negative lights. While most individual residents and families are happy with their assisted living communities, legislators and senior citizen activists across the country continue to raise concerns regarding the lack of national standards for assisted living quality.

While on the surface national standards sound like a good idea, the reality can be somewhat different. Look what national standards have done for the quality of nursing home care, for example. Scandals hit newspapers daily with stories of resident abuse, neglect, and other violations.

Perhaps better than national standards is the approach of some within the profession: the concept of self-regulation. But while self-regulation makes logical sense, any approach to improving the quality of care must make financial sense as well.

Take the matter of training: Inadequacy of training for caregiving staff is frequently cited as one of the key problems within all areas of senior care. In this area, regulations vary dramatically from state to state. Some states have detailed requirements for staff training; other states have no requirements at all. It’s challenging for operators to make financial sense out of offering a service that is not required, while they struggle to meet all the other regulatory requirements.

One solution that is getting increased attention is online training – using computers so that employees can get up-to-the-minute training during working hours without adding other layers of costs, such as overtime or instructor wages.

“Faced with retraining 50 million American workers, corporate America is using distance learning, both internally and externally, for all aspects of training. Many major corporations save millions of dollars each year using distance learning to train employees more effectively and more efficiently than with conventional methods,” reports the United States Distance Learning Association.

In Canada, continuing education for caregivers can cost as much as $9,000 per year, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Compare that to the cost of online training – less than $150 per caregiver – and the financial logic of online training is clear.

National standards may be one answer to the rapidly growing problem of care for the next generation of elderly, but a better solution may be found at the touch of a keyboard, through online training for caregiving staff.