Teresa Lorenz, deputy director of Thrive Alliance in Columbus, Indiana, had a challenge. It was 2017 and she was concerned about the quality of the continuing education her staff of 65 was taking. An Area Agency on Aging (AAA), Thrive Alliance covers a lot of ground. It provides care management and is an Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC); it also runs a guardianship program for adults with disabilities, a senior meals program, caregiver and dementia care programs, as well as a housing program for low income and people with disabilities. Thrive Alliance recently celebrated their 40th anniversary and the opening of a new housing project in Seymour, Indiana.
“We didn’t have a formal training program,” Lorenz explains. “I felt like staff members were grabbing free webinars here and there to get their continuing education hours in every year. I was looking for something reputable so I could be sure their continuing education hours were really adding to their skillset and building up their professional roles.” Lorenz was excited when she discovered CADER, The Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research, at a USA Aging conference.
“We had been researching different programs and were very impressed with what Teresa found with CADER,” explains Director of Human Resources Marianne Stemm. “We liked that CADER is backed by Boston University School of Social Work and that so many other states had gone with their programs. And we knew that the courses were comprehensive and person-centered, which is very important to us.”
Since partnering with CADER in 2018, Thrive Alliance has had 58 individuals complete the Case Management Certificate and 47 individuals complete the Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias course. “When we first came on board with CADER, we had all of our care managers and ADRC staff do the training, as well as everyone in operations,” Lorenz continues. “We wanted to make sure we had a good baseline and that everybody was speaking the same language and using the same terminology. Since that initial training, we have every single new hire—mostly people with bachelor’s degrees in social work, psychology, or human services—go through the Case Management certificate program, as well as the Alzheimer’s course.”
Because courses are online and self-paced, new staff are able to complete the CADER training as part of their 90-day onboarding process. “We intermingle it with going on home visits with different care managers so they can see what they’re learning from CADER in action,” says Lorenz. “Every day, our staff walks into so many different environments. We’re dealing with individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their caregivers, and we’re also dealing with individuals who have other conditions, like mental illness or intellectual disabilities in addition to aging. CADER gives our staff a well-rounded approach that grows their confidence and ability to interact with individuals at all different levels.”
Stemm appreciates that CADER’s courses and programs are constantly updated with best practices. “This gives small to medium-sized agencies like ours access to training that we don’t necessarily have the capability to produce in-house. With CADER, we are confident that we are getting very high-quality programs.”
Thrive Alliance has had such a positive experience with CADER that they have branched out to take advantage of other offerings. “We’ve had staff complete the residential housing program, the ethics program and the volunteer program,” Stemm concludes. “I’m constantly asking CADER staff, ‘What else have you guys got coming online that we can have our employees take?’ We’re definitely with CADER for the long haul.”