Calls answered: Vital dementia training available and free for first responders, frontline workers

Calls have been made to give frontline workers access to basic dementia training as the number of people living with the condition continues to rise. [Source:Shutterstock]

The Australian Government has introduced a free training initiative to arm first responders and frontline workers with education and tools to properly assist people with dementia during emergencies.

Through this one-hour course facilitated by Dementia Training Australia, participants will gain a better understanding of dementia, including common symptoms and how dementia affects the brain and behaviour.

After completing this course, participants should be able to:

  • Define dementia and describe how dementia can affect the brain and behaviour
  • Describe examples of changed behaviours
  • Communicate effectively with people living with dementia
  • Use various strategies to prevent the escalation of distress
  • Optimise transitions of care for someone living with dementia

First responder organisations across the country, including police forces, ambulance, and health services, have already begun signing up for the course.

Calls for frontline workers to receive dementia training have been persistent for years but were reemphasised following the death of an aged care resident living with dementia, Clare Nowland, after she was tasered by police. 

Furthermore, in the same month, footage was published online showing another aged care resident living with dementia, Rachel Grahame, in distress as a team of six police surround and handcuff her.

From these events, dementia advocates around the country urged training be provided to first responders, with a former dementia educator, Penny Bingham, putting together a training program for police and emergency response crews across Australia to prevent further fatal incidents.

“With an increasing population and a dementia diagnosis every six minutes in Australia, we’re all going to encounter it in some way at some time so we need to know how to respond,” she told HelloCare.

“They are very sensitive to verbal and non-verbal cues and if they see tension, that’s just going to increase their agitation.”

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells called the initiative a “game changer” for first responders and frontline workers. 

“This training, fully funded by the Albanese Government, will empower our police, fire, emergency workers, paramedics, and ambulance officers to safely engage with people who have dementia in an empathetic way,” she said.

“With more than 400,000 people living with dementia in Australia, a number expected to double by 2058, the demand for dementia awareness among emergency personnel has never been greater.”

Dementia Training Australia’s Isabelle Meyer mirrored Ms Wells’ comments, stating this cohort of service providers will be empowered with practical tools to empathetically and safely handle patients with cognitive impairment to prevent situations from escalating.

“By completing the first responders course, they will gain a deeper understanding of how dementia affects the brain and behaviour of those living with it.”

To learn more about the course, subscribe to the Australian Journal of Dementia Care to read their latest edition covering the topic of dementia training for first responders.  

To register for the course, visit the Dementia Training Australia website here.

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