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UCSF: Shift to remote learning and its impact

A virtual classroom

Research highlights CCA’s transition to virtual training during the pandemic and how caregivers adapted to a a video-based classroom

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Center for Caregiver Advancement (CCA) to switch its training programs to remote learning, one of the biggest worries was transitioning the adult learners to a virtual environment. Do they have access to stable internet connection? Do they have a smartphone or tablet with a camera that would enable them to log in to a video-based classroom? Do they feel confident in their ability to use technology to continue their training?

This was the subject of a poster presentation in November at the 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The presentation, titled Implementing a Community-Based Collaborative Project During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Process Evaluation, was presented by Dr. Jarmin Yeh, Assistant Professor, Institute for Health & Aging at University of California, San Francisco. Yeh is the principal investigator for the research aspect of CCA’s IHSS+ Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD) training program.

The IHSS+ ADRD Training Project is supported by the California Department of Public Health, Alzheimer’s Disease Program, with funding provided by the 2018 California Budget Act. It is a partnership between CCA, Alameda Alliance for Health, and the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging.

According to Yeh, the preliminary findings are based on the first cohort of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers who participated in CCA’s dementia training program after public health social distancing mandates were put into place.

Yeh’s team learned that while most caregivers in this cohort felt the pandemic severely impacted their personal life (61%) and their work as an IHSS caregiver (61%), the majority had technology access to participate in the training program remotely and virtually, such as having a stable internet connection (87%), smartphone or tablet with camera (97%), computer with camera (75%), and quiet space (83%), though not all.   

To address the technology barriers, CCA loans tablets and hotspot devices to IHSS providers who need them to complete the training. CCA also provides step-by-step video tutorials on how to log in to the Zoom platform from smartphones or tablets, as well as one-on-one help as needed.

In the shift to remote learning, CCA prioritized the needs of adult learners and factored in their varying levels of digital literacy and educational backgrounds.

“Adapting to a new method of learning while dealing with the harsh realities of the pandemic was a challenge initially,” said Corinne Eldridge, CCA President & CEO. “But we knew it was critical that the changes we made to the way we delivered instruction would make our course accessible to all the caregivers taking the training, whether they already had digital skills or if we needed to take the time to support them through learning those skills.”

The research team found that, overall, caregivers rated the dementia training program favorably. The majority felt they learned new caregiving skills, were satisfied with the training, and felt the training was beneficial (97% respectively). 

“Changes made to this project due to the COVID-19 pandemic were not without challenges; however, the adaptability of the CCA team to shift programming to virtual and remote strategies, while retaining the caliber of training they are known for, was essential. We continue to make quality improvements and monitor the impact as the pandemic evolves,” said Yeh.

The goal of the UCSF research is to evaluate the impact of CCA’s competency-based dementia training program on 600 IHSS caregivers and their IHSS consumers who are Medi-Cal eligible older adults with cognitive impairment receiving health benefits from Alameda Alliance for Health.

“This research is important to better support IHSS caregivers in their work with IHSS consumers and has policy and practice implications for bolstering the direct care workforce, long-term services and supports, and health systems,” said Yeh.

Additional aspects of this on-going research will be presented in a lightning talk at the American Society on Aging (ASA) conference in April.

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