Jun 16, 2023

“Hope changes everything”: five-day dementia retreat to educate on living well

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These retreats will be rolled out at Group Homes Australia (GHA) NSW locations across three years. [Source: GHA]

For so many people, a dementia diagnosis has a ripple effect throughout their whole support system. While it can be a time that is confusing and scary, one provider has received the funds to help restore hope and wellness to all impacted post-diagnosis.

Earlier this week, Group Homes Australia announced they received Federal grant funding to launch a five-day post-diagnostic retreat to educate people living with dementia (PLWD) and their support partners and offer tools and strategies to live with a dementia diagnosis.

Touching on topics like demystifying dementia, navigating symptoms such as memory loss, food, mood and sleep, education sessions will be paired with psychological and peer support for an all-encompassing experience.

This program hits close to home for co-Director, Donna Ward.

Before losing her mum to dementia in December 2022, she saw the struggles first-hand of handling a diagnosis without having sufficient knowledge on how to support the person. 

“When my mum was first diagnosed 18 years ago, I was there and we had nothing,” she explained.

“People with dementia and their support person is a relationship that depends on each other and with these tools and strategies, there’s hope and hope changes everything. 

The live-in retreats will be rolled out to specific metropolitan and regional Group Homes Australia facilities in New South Wales and will host five ‘couples’ of someone with a dementia diagnosis and a support person they wish to come with them at a time. 

An innovative program predicted to have positive results, the grant award comes as dementia support is pit under the spotlight as 70% of people with dementia live in the community and want to age at home. 

Research has also shown that giving PLWD and their partners the tools to live at home with a new diagnosis can reduce care fatigue and delay or prevent admission into long-term care.

Group Homes Australia Founder and Executive Director, Tamar Krebs, said the way we currently support PLWD isn’t good enough. 

In her 26 years of experience, she has found that post-diagnosis, people only receive a six-month follow-up appointment – no treatment, no care, no support, or no medication. Due to the lack of knowledge about dementia and how to live well at home with a diagnosis, many PLWD finds their social networks dissolve as they feel helpless. 

“There’s nothing that gives the person hope that this is going to get better,” Ms Krebs explained. 

“I feel like, as a provider, we have to do better.” 

Touching on the tragic incident surrounding the health of aged care resident, Clare Nowland, Ms Krebs is pleased a stronger emphasis is being put on care staff receiving appropriate training on working with PLWD.

“You have to have a minimum standard of training to get into a car, to manage alcohol or make coffee but we don’t have a minimum standard of training for people caring for people with dementia,” she said.

These retreats will be held over the coming months and will expand to host 33 programs over three years.

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  1. Hello I’m a 61 yr carer for my husband who was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia 2 years ago

    I’m very interested in finding out how to apply for one of the retreat stays

    We live north of Sydney however I’d be happy to travel anywhere to be part of this program.

    Happy to provide more details.

    We need some hope right now

    1. Hello Frances, I’m not sure if anyone replied to you – but if not please contact Dementia Support Australia on 1800 699 799 24/7 to get some further information on these programs being held around the country. There are plenty of options for support and they will be happy to provide you with details.


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