Sep 08, 2022

Experts call for more specialist dementia care funding and training

Experts call for more specialist dementia care funding and training

Prioritising ongoing staff training, additional funding and tailored dementia care support has been a focus of the International Dementia Conference’s opening day in Sydney today.

Experts, clinicians, researchers, innovators and people with lived experiences have come together for the two-day conference that’s being held during Dementia Awareness Month.

While speaking on behavioural changes caused by dementia, Kate Hawkins, Group Manager of Residential Aged Care and Retirement Living for Anglicare Southern Queensland, spoke of the recruitment involved with their specialist dementia care unit.

Anglicare Southern Queensland was one of the first aged care providers to introduce a specialist dementia care unit in 2019 through the Government funded Specialist Dementia Care Program (SDCP).

“Coming from an acute care setting previously, I saw a lot of people ending up in hospital and not having the best health outcomes,” said Ms Hawkins. 

“I knew it could be done… to help mainstream care facilities have a supportive environment for people with dementia who are experiencing severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).

“This was the start of COVID and recruitment was really difficult but we were still able to recruit for different qualities in our staff. 

“I didn’t necessarily look at all the experience in dementia care, because that’s what we can teach people.”

Ms Hawkins explained that the organisation trained people in non-pharmacological interventions for people living with dementia. 

That training has underpinned ongoing success for the SDCP, which aims to transition people with BPSD into less intensive care settings.

“You need the right person there to continue that ever-learning,” added Ms Hawkins.

“I have a lovely care coordinator that supports our staff to do reflective learning, she talks our staff through instances to learn through those.”

She adds that in the beginning of the unit, there were a lot of incidents that staff experienced while they were learning, but now the staff are down to maybe one incident a month.

Getting the right care

Lynne Sewell, a fellow panellist, reinforced the need for the right staff and management practices to ensure the best possible care is delivered.

Ms Sewell is the primary carer for her husband, Rick, who was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia in 2014 and 2015, respectively, at 61-years-old.

She believes it’s important to challenge those pre existing assumptions of what dementia is.

“I really think the term dementia needs to be flicked,” said Ms Sewell.

“When you say your husband has dementia people think of an elderly person sitting in a chair, dribbling on their chin. That’s not my husband.

“For nine years I’ve been living with a very fit and active man, that’s not him.

“Dementia is just an umbrella term and frontotemporal dementia is so diametrically different to dementia.” 

The journey towards the right care solutions has proved difficult for the couple, as Ms Sewell recounted a short stay in a residential aged care facility that ultimately saw her husband sent home.

“Rick became aggressive to the other residents because he was the only fit, active resident,” explained Ms Sewell.

“The rest were not very mobile, suffering from Alzheimers, and they would come and get in his face. He has no language and so his response was violence.

“Up until this stage we hadn’t seen this behaviour, ever. When he came home he was violent, physically aggressive towards myself, the carers were being kicked, it was just horrendous.”

Ultimately, Ms Sewell contacted Dementia Support Australia and despite COVID-19 interruptions, Mr Sewell now lives in an independent care setting, although they continue to search for the best possible care services.

Funding is necessary to improve dementia care

For Ms Sewell, she hopes additional funding can be provided to ensure the best treatments are available from day one of a dementia diagnosis.

“Doctors and nurses need to have more exposure to what it is because writing ‘dementia’ on a script pad is not the answer, it’s about looking at the person first. 

“We call it a disease, so the researchers need to find out why people get it, what predisposes you to get the different variants, and how do we go about treating it. 

“We need the support to get through that journey.”

The International Dementia Conference concludes tomorrow.

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  1. Appropriate dementia funding was available until Scott Morrison cancelled same, roughly 18% of residents were eligible but the funding was poorly managed like everything else government touches.

    Building design is rarely looked at in any real manner when talking about dementia management. The same old “paint the doors” or “put up a picture of his/her pet” nonsense gets touted out from time to time.

    We changed our building and it’s very uniqueness in design alleviates most instances of aggression or agitation. We have an “endless” hallway that passes several sitting and dining areas and encircles a secure courtyard that is also always accessible for residents.
    Residents can wander around,in and out at their pace and direction with abundant areas both inside and out to have a rest.
    This freedom to discover “new” areas coupled with experienced carers is the secret to dementia management.

  2. You are right on when you say education is not the only solutions to providing care. Education is ongoing. the more our staff learn the more they can provide competent care. It is also important that staff recognize infantilization and the behaviors on their part that contribute to treating clients like children. It’s important staff are educated in dementia care but also certified in Dementia and Montessori as Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professionals and CDP Certified Dementia Practitioners with ICCDP International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners


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