Customer Service to a Higher Standard with Dementia TrainingEd Youngblood
Since 2017, the Citrus County Library System has provided “Dementia Friendly” training for its personnel. We think this is especially important in a county where our residents over the age of 65 are twice the Florida state average. Whereas 17 percent of Floridians are 65-plus, in Citrus County more than a third of our residents fall into this senior demographic!
Not only is this a population segment where dementia begins to emerge, but often our seniors – with dementia or not — are more reliant on public services. Seniors visit our libraries in large numbers to use computers, borrow books and videos, and participate in our educational seminars about available resources in Citrus County.
Certainly, we don’t assume that every senior has dementia, but it made sense to us that the customer service techniques designed for these might be welcomed by all of our clientele. And if we are right, we are getting ahead of a demographic trend since our population living with dementia is expected to more than double over the next 30 years.
While everyone knows that dementia involves loss of memory, many do not realize that all of our senses are adversely affected, including vision, hearing/comprehension, and manual dexterity. Through training, our staff learns a broader understanding of dementia, how to identify “behaviors” that may indicate that a person is living with dementia, and techniques of voice and approach with which they can better serve a person who may have dementia.
After more than three years of this specialized training, we are convinced that it not only makes our personnel more confident and comfortable around patrons with dementia, but that it makes them better service providers for any and all of our patrons. Thus, we have continued to host up to a dozen Dementia Friendly workshops a year for our staff that are open also to the public at large.
Debbie Selsavage, a Certified Dementia Practitioner who pioneered and still provides this training, says she is not aware of any other library system that has made such a commitment. Her company, the Inverness-based Coping with Dementia LLC, has provided occasional training at individual libraries, but she tells us that only Citrus has committed to a system-wide and ongoing program.
“Dementia Friendly” is an innovative and expanded program of customer service that I think we can be proud of.