2024 Training Topics

  • Each of the topics listed below may be presented as a webinar or a “live” training.
  • The trainings may be held in a 1 ½ hour format or a 2 ½ hour format.  
  • For the 2 ½ hour format, contact hours are available for social workers, family and marital therapists and professional counselors, as well as PA DHS personal care home administrators, and NACCM (care managers) 
  • There are additional fees for contact hours. 
    • Please note there are time limitations on obtaining approval for contact hours.
  • All topics included are thoroughly researched and evidenced-based but are presented to ensure that all levels of participants gain adequate knowledge of the topic. 

“Aging, Mental Health and Chronic Illness” – As we age there is an increased risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and arthritis. What most individuals don’t realize is that most “chronic illnesses” are preventable. Individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses also have an increased risk in mental health issues, most commonly depression. All of these issues impact how well we age. This presentation will discuss the risks of chronic illness and co-morbid mental health issues, their symptoms, prevention and how to manage both.  Evidenced-based practices for healthy aging will be reviewed. Keys to “aging well” will be emphasized.

What It Means to Grow Old” –  Understanding how our body “ages” is important for us to know as we grow older. It is necessary to recognize what is “normal aging” and when one is truly having physical  and/ or mental health issues associated with aging. This webinar will review the “normal” processes of aging; the physical, cognitive, social and emotional changes that each of us experience. The interactive effects of aging will be discussed, emphasizing prevention and approaches to ensure a healthy, happy and engaged older age.

“Differentiating Dementia, Depression and Delirium”- Psychiatric issues in older individuals are complicated and involved. Delirium, depression, and dementia are the most common psychiatric presentations in older adults, however differentiating the three “D’s” can be difficult. Recognizing each is a fundamental part of caring for older adults. This webinar will discuss the incidence and common characteristics of each; delirium, depression and dementia.  Assessment of the clinical symptoms and the varied assessment scales will be presented.  Recognizing the multidisciplinary needs of older adults will be emphasized. 

“Behavioral Health Issues in Older Adults” – Older adults are underserved in behavioral health systems. Accessing care and issues of stigma and agism further complicate reaching older adults in need. This presentation will review the characteristics of mental health issues specific to late life. Assessment of the clinical symptoms and needed differentiation will be reviewed including the “behavioral” symptoms of the individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, delirium and the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. Substance use issues in older adults will be examined. Specific treatment needs for older adults in recovery will also be considered. Behavioral interventions that may be used with individuals suffering from depression and anxiety will be reviewed. Psychosocial interventions for individuals will be presented, including communication skills, behavioral management and environmental interventions for those experiencing cognitive disorders.

“Update on Alzheimer’s Disease” – Alzheimer’s disease currently affects over 6.2 million Americans. If no cure is found, over 88 million American’s will be afflicted by 2050. (2021 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures) This presentation will provide an overview and the criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The most common symptoms of dementia will be presented, as well as the neuropsychiatric symptoms that frequently accompany the disease. The medical limitations in treating the “neuropsychiatric” or the “behavioral and psychological” symptoms of dementia will be discussed. Treatment interventions will be reviewed, including current medication protocols and the controversy overthe new medication Aduhelm. Good communication skills, behavioral management and psychosocial approaches, the basis for providing support and care for individuals with cognitive issues, will be highlighted. Community resources for both family and professional caregivers will be shared.

“Understanding ‘Problem’ Behaviors” – Problem behaviors in older adults can also be manifestations of medical illness, psychiatric disease, or “behavioral anxiety.” This presentation will discuss “problem behaviors” as a “means” of communication. The “behavioral” symptoms of individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, delirium and the “neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia” will be reviewed. We will identify and discuss the common interventions that may be used with individuals who are having behavior problems, including communication skills, behavioral management and psychosocial interventions. Case discussions will be utilized as examples to underscore problem solving. 

“Psychiatric Complications of Dementia” – Psychiatric complications of dementia are extensive, yet due to issues of stigma, individuals and families do not readily seek help.” Issues of depression in primary caregivers, both professional and family, are frequent and can directly affect caregiving and patient outcomes. Additionally, depression is present in up to 50% of individuals suffering from dementia, though few afflicted get adequate treatment. Delirium also occurs frequently and can lead to hospitalization and risk of death for those with dementia. The “neuropsychiatric symptoms” of dementia occur up to 90% of the time throughout the course of illness. Consequently, this may lead to caregiver burnout, loss of quality of life and institutionalization. Each of these issues will be discussed in detail, including symptoms, interventions and resources. Prevention and accessing proper treatment will be emphasized. 

“Depression, Anxiety and Suicide in Older Adults” – Depression, anxiety and suicide are common disorders in older adults. During this webinar, each of these illnesses will be introduced. Though much is written about depression and dementia in later life, anxiety occurs more frequently and is referred to as the “Geriatric Giant” due to its common presentation. Anxiety frequently accompanies medical disorders and can be a side effect of medications as well. The varied types of anxiety will be presented, as well as interventions to assist older adults in coping with their symptoms. Almost 30% of older adults in primary care suffer from some form of depression, yet for the majority of older individuals it remains untreated. Issues of depression will be reviewed, as well as the increased risk of depression in relation to co-morbid disorders. Late onset depression and its risk of suicide in older adults will be included. An overview of barriers to service provisions for older adults will be reviewed with an impetus to work together as community providers to serve our aging community. 

“Normal Cognitive Changes that Accompany Aging” – As we age, it is important to differentiate normal age-related changes from common “psychiatric issues” that can accompany aging. This presentation will discuss what “normal” cognitive processes happen as we age and how illness and stress can impair our “memory” and other “cognitive” domains. The cognitive symptoms of depression, attentional issues that accompany delirium, and the disorientation from dementia are important indicators of psychiatric diseases in older adults.  Differentiating cognitive problems and knowing when to seek help will be explained. The importance of good medical care will be emphasized in addition to interventions to ensure a “healthy brain.” 

“Substance Use Disorders: Issues  in Older Adults” – As the “baby boomer” generation has aged, substance use has become a major health concern. However, recognizing substance use disorders in older adults can be difficult. Given the rise of substance use disorders in this at-risk population, it is crucial that we understand and address these issues promptly and effectively. This presentation will discuss “substance use disorders” common to older adults, including illicit drug use, and prescription drug, opioid and alcohol abuse. We will compare the current use of drugs and alcohol to the demographic of the baby boomers. Differences in assessment and treatment for these two generations will be discussed. Even though the issues of opioid use have been designated a major health issue, little is said of the high rates of addiction and fatalities that are experienced by older adults. Screening and treatment will be discussed, with an emphasis on the holistic approach, as older adults are more likely to have a co-occurring physical, behavioral, and/or cognitive disorder. 

“Working with individuals with Developmental Disabilities and Chronic Mental Illness as they Age”- It is well documented that as individuals age, they become “increasingly vulnerable to mental health disorders.” The loss of friends and family, exacerbated by the loss of supports, mobility, failing vision and hearing issues can lead to isolation. For individuals with chronic mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities, these social losses as well as age-related physical changes and complicated medical problems increase the risk of hospitalization and potential institutionalization. The goal of this training  is to offer providers and caregivers of individuals with chronic mental illness and intellectual disabilities an understanding of normal age-related changes as well as the potential issues posed by delirium and risks of dementia. Each of these issues will be discussed in detail, including symptoms, interventions and resources. It is hoped at the end of this presentation, community professionals will work across systems to enable all older adults to remain active members of their communities. 

“Understanding Hoarding Behaviors” – Compulsive hoarding was originally defined as “acquisition of/failure to discard possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value” (Frost; Hartal 1996). Though these behaviors have become a fascination to many, hoarding is a social and mental health concern. The public has become more aware of individuals with hoarding behaviors through the media, and this “education” has encouraged many to seek needed help. Individuals who exhibit hoarding behaviors suffer from difficulty discarding items due to their “emotional attachment” to the objects. This webinar will discuss hoarding as a disease, the new DSM 5 criteria, demographics, and assessment. Treatment interventions will be reviewed as well as community-based care. The need for developing “hoarding task forces” will be discussed. Understanding the complexity of treatment for individuals who have “hoarding” behaviors will be also be reviewed.

“Evidenced-Based Practices for Aging in Place” – The changing demographics within our country implores us to find the means to serve older adults in our communities. Even though our knowledge of aging has increased, we still need to find alternatives to keep older adults independent and active within their communities. The necessity of working with other community systems and providers to bridge “silos” is imperative. This presentation will review evidenced-based practices in serving community-residing older adults and will emphasize prevention and mutual cooperation between institutional systems. This “interdisciplinary approach,” working across service systems, will address the multiple needs of older individuals, enabling a community approach for geriatric independence. Proven and evidenced-based practices will be presented with resources for implementation.

“Compassion Fatigue” – In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, professional and family caregivers have faced an increased number of stressors, not only as they have been assisting clients, but also in dealing with their own personal and family concerns. Despite these conditions, they have retained a desire to help. However, this “helping” narrative has been mired by the ongoing struggle to protect oneself and one’s family. This overwhelming “angst” has produced physical and emotional responses that, at times, seem inescapable. This webinar will address the differences between “compassion fatigue,” secondary or “vicarious” trauma, and the burnout all caregivers have experienced in recent years. We will define the components of “compassion fatigue” and the striking differences between compassion and empathy. Most importantly, we will discuss why some of us suffer from compassion fatigue more “personally,” and how we can learn to “protect” ourselves from its negative effects. Finally, we will present tools that allow us to stay healthy, not only physically, but emotionally as well. We will discuss what we can do to protect ourselves, while still engaging with our clients. Additionally, we will review how management and support staff can enable and assist caregivers while simultaneously ensuring the safety of our friends, families, and clients. 

“Mental Health Issues of Covid 19” – The mental health effects and disparities that have surfaced during the pandemic are continuing to be assessed. The increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicide were documented in 2021, and more startling statistics are still surfacing. As we begin to re-enter society, this is time to critically look at the issues that have come to light and put in place supports and systems to connect those “at risk”. This webinar will review the rates of anxiety, depression and suicide in our country during the pandemic. We will discuss the impact of social isolation and loneliness on individuals and caregivers. In conclusion, we will discuss implications for the future and potential interventions for communities.

“Understanding Health Disparities and Finding Community Solutions” – Addressing inequalities and health disparities has acquired greater meaning as the pandemic has exposed our society’s health care vulnerabilities and areas of neglect. Health disparities have been well-documented for many years, yet it was during the beginning of the pandemic that they became a regular news headline. The Center for Disease Control identifies health disparities as “preventative difference[s] in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.” Though the Affordable Care Act was purposefully designed to address some of the most pressing health disparities in our country, it has suffered ongoing assaults. Addressing health disparities is not only the key to correcting financial burdens within our health care system, but also serves as a means for individuals to ensure their “overall health.” This webinar will define the social determinants of health and list examples of health disparities in different populations. In conclusion, we will cite evidence-based practices that have been successfully implemented to address ongoing health disparities. 

“Behavioral Assessment and Intervention for Individuals Residing in Community Settings” – Understanding behaviors can be one of the most difficult aspects of care for individuals who reside in community settings. At the conclusion of this webinar, participants will understand the complicated nature of behavioral health issues, including the regressive symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, depression, the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia, environmental causes of “anxiety” and the medical co-morbidities which can cause behavioral issues. Specific environmental causes and institutional effects will be explored and prioritized. Participants will be able to differentiate clinical presentations, prioritize assessment and develop interventions. 

Please contact Linda Shumaker at optimizeaging@gmail.com or 717 503-2643 for further information