Feb 05, 2019

35 specialist dementia care units to be rolled out across Australia, new trial

The government has announced it will roll out 35 specialist dementia care units across Australia to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people living with dementia receive the specialist care they require.

The government has revealed it will invest $70 million in the Specialist Dementia Care Program.

The network of specialist dementia care units will be a “world first” according to a statement from the government, and will provide best practice, person-centred care for those who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream residential aged care services.

The program will offer specialised, transitional residential support, focussing on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time, with the aim of enabling the person to move to less intensive care settings.

It has been developed after extensive consultation with dementia experts, clinicians, dementia peak groups and carers of people living with dementia.

Prototype at Brightwater’s The Village, Perth

The SDCU Program will be phased in, and will start with a prototype service that is expected to be operational mid-way through this year.

Today, the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, and the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced that aged care operator Brightwater will establish the prototype at its Perth facility, The Village.

The prototype will test the model, with a view to refining it ahead of the nation-wide rollout.

A “critical area of need”

Jennifer Lawrence, Chief Executive Officer, Brightwater Care Group, said the program is addressing a “critical area of need in aged care”.

She said the program is aimed at improving outcomes for those living with dementia but whose needs can not be met in mainstream residential aged care facilities.

“We look forward to collaborating with government and industry providers to improve the outcomes for this group of clients who encounter significant challenges with day-to-day support and maintaining wellbeing.”

Ms Lawrence congratulated the Government for recognising the need to provide “specialist care” across the country.

Many have raised concerns about caring for those with exceptional needs: Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia also welcomed the announcement. It said the prototype will mean the service model can be appropriately tested, evaluated and improved before a broader rollout.

Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia CEO, said the launch of the program marks an important first step that aims to provide specialist residential care and support for a vulnerable group of people with high needs requiring a more supportive environment.

“There is a small but important proportion of the 436,000 Australians living with dementia who will be able to access this support,” Ms McCabe said.

She said it is also “essential” that specialist dementia training and education is improved across the board.

“People impacted by dementia have long raised concerns with Dementia Australia about the inconsistent support for people exhibiting behaviours that may be a risk to themselves or others – including the use of pharmacological interventions over other forms of support.

“They have questioned the ability of mainstream aged care services to appropriately manage the specialist and unique needs of people living with dementia more broadly and especially those with exceptional needs.”

National rollout

It’s expected that thirty-five specialist units will be established in total, one unit in each of Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks, and an additional four units according to where need is greatest.

The Program will eventually have:

  • 10 units in New South Wales
  • 6 units in Victoria
  • 7 units in Queensland
  • 2 units in South Australia
  • 3 units in Western Australia
  • 1 unit in Tasmania
  • 1 unit in Northern Territory, and
  • 1 unit in Australian Capital Territory.

It’s hoped that 15 units will be up and running by early 2020, following a tender process, and the remaining sites will be selected in 2021, and are expected to be operational by 2023.

The Specialist Dementia Care Program will operate as a ‘third level’ in the help Government programs give to people living with dementia. First first two levels are the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Severe Behaviour Response Teams.

Please note: The images used to illustrate this article do not reflect actual people of events. Image: iStock.


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  1. Dear Caroline

    I beleive it’s definately an area of increasing demand and opportunity.

    Do we know which centres in NSW will get this funding? Many thanks.


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