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Elder Education Institute Offers Training for Aging Network Professionals

Sound Generations Elder Education Institute

Are you seeking quality educational trainings that address the unique needs of older adults?  You’ve come to the right place! The Elder Education Institute (EEI) at Sound Generations is on a mission! Formerly known as the Geriatric Mental Health Program, the EEI offers educational workshops and programming that address the special concerns of older adults, providing education and guidance for older adults, their caregivers, and the professionals who work to support them. Our programming is rooted in service to our elders and the recognition that there is a growing urgency for guidance and educational opportunities that help us help our elders age with caring support and dignity.

History of the program

The Elder Education Institute evolved out of the Geriatric Mental Health workshops, a CEU granting workshop series specifically for licensed mental health professionals. Formerly coursework provided at the University of Washington, the program was later designed and managed by Geriatric Mental Health Specialists—Karen Kent, LMHC, GMHS and Terri Haaga, MSW, LICSW, GMHS—both passionate proponents of the need for specialized mental health care for older adults. Sound Generations took the workshops series on when they retired and has provided quality professional geriatric mental health trainings since.

Now, EEI is in a phase of expansion and growth to better serve the evolving needs of the community and professionals. The professional workshop series continues to offer pertinent CEU granting coursework. Jams Stuivenga, MSW, LSWAIC, clinical supervisor of Sound Generations’ Geriatric Regional Assessment Team (GRAT), offers advisory guidance on programming.

Professional workshops

Our professional workshops offer outstanding educational trainings to licensed professionals and other service providers who work with older adults. We currently offer three to six Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to licensed mental health professionals. Our students include professionals from Washington State DSHS, Evergreen Hospice, UW Medicine, and other organizations. We also welcome professionals from other industries, such as fire departments and correctional facilities, who seek better understanding of how to work with older adults in need. We provide non-CEU certificates of completion to any service provider who completes a course with us.

EEI workshops address a wide range of topics that train professionals to best assist their clients, many of whom are in crisis.

”The Elder Education Institute workshops have been very valuable to the Geriatric Regional Assessment Team (GRAT), broadening their clinical knowledge and refining their ability to engage with older adults in a variety of challenging situations,” said GRAT’s Jams Stuivenga. “For example, after attending Advanced Care Planning and Difficult Discussions, one GRAT clinician reported using information from the workshop to discuss end-of-life planning with an active client. Together they completed a values worksheet and the clinician offered guidance to the client about filling out an advanced directive. The client, having no partner or family members, shared that they were afraid of dying alone, so the clinician informed them about the role of a death doula and related resources.”

In another example, multiple clinicians drew upon learning from the Personality Disorders in the Older Population workshop to identify helpful techniques for working with clients that have features of one or more personality disorders.

Other workshops (e.g., Enriching Dementia Personhood in Older Adults through Creativity and the Arts) have provided creative strategies for working with difficult circumstances. “Empathy is deepened when a presenter shows examples of how creativity helps people blossom, and the way that people with dementia have a higher quality of life when they have the space to express themselves,” said Sue Van Zante-Peiser, a clinical social work intern on Sound Generations’ caregiver team. “I left the workshop with a greater sense of community and techniques that instill hope in working with people who can be socially isolated and lonely. People with dementia can so easily feel that they are not needed, a nuisance, in the way, or disposable. The philosophy of deeply engaging their creative spirits is a way to reinforce how much they matter. This workshop broadened my knowledge and understanding about the realities of those living with dementia and how creative expression can open them to alternative modes of communication that enhance their quality of life.”

EEI’s workshops will continue to support the training of professionals who work with older adults, addressing ever evolving and pressing concerns of our elders. Upcoming workshops include Older Adult Veterans: Who Are They and How Can We Help Them; The Law and Ethics of Mandatory Reporting and Client Lethality in Working with Older Adults; Identifying, Assessing and Preventing Suicide in Older Adults (meets the Washington requirements); and Addressing Grief and Loss in Older Adults.

New directions

In the coming year, EEI plans to broaden its scope. We hope to offer CEU credentials to a wider range of licensed health professionals. We will also develop programming for the community, including classes and forums for elders who are seeking guidance and for those who have elders in their lives who need assistance and inspiration.

The Elder Education Institute welcomes the community’s suggestions for classes they would like to take, collaborations and outreach suggestions to help us provide this vital education to more folks who work with elders. Our goal is to be a locus of educational support in elder care for generations to come. For more information about the Elder Education Institute, visit E-mail or call 206-727-6226, ext. 226 to share ideas.

Alison Laird CraigAlison Laird Craig, an education specialist, designed and manages the Elder Education Institute. Alison’s background is in healthcare, higher education administration, small business development, and the arts.