Aug 24, 2022

Trial program hopes to provide life-changing support for older people with advanced dementia

A first-of-its-kind dementia support pilot program in South Australia hopes to fix issues with accessing specialist dementia care by moving older people with advanced dementia out of hospitals and into residential aged care homes.

The Memory Support Transition Team (MSTT) pilot program was developed by the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and is currently being trialled through the Repat Health Precinct in South Australia.

This project is aiming to see if older people with advanced dementia would receive greater benefits from personalised dementia care if they were in a comfortable setting, like a nursing home, rather than living and receiving treatment in a hospital setting.

So far, six older people living with advanced dementia have successfully moved from the Repat into community-based living at Life Care residential aged care homes. 

SALHN’s Clinical Director of Rehabilitation, Aged Care and Palliative Care, Professor Craig Whitehead, believes that the benefits of living in a comfortable setting while receiving care for advanced dementia was crucial for older people.

“Our Memory Support Transition Team works hand-in-hand with residential aged care providers to develop tailored patient care plans and ensure smooth transitional pathways,” Mr Whitehead said.

“We want our patients to reside in community living environments in residential aged care settings where possible, where they can continue their treatment with specialised support and avoid unnecessary hospital admission.

Life Care is SA’s only aged care provider with an in-house geriatrician, who is able to provide clinically appropriate support in more relaxing environments.

Life Care’s Geriatrician, Dr Miriam Cursaro, provides ongoing clinical support and is a key part of the six-week transition from hospital into Life Care facilities. 

Dr Cursaro’s expertise provides participants with much needed stability, said Melissa Fox, Life Care’s Residential Operations Manager.

“It is very rewarding to be able to change someone’s life for the better by helping them out of hospital and into an environment that feels more like home,” Ms Fox said.

Ms Fox added that research has found that dementia in older Australians will likely more than double over the next few decades, which is why dementia care should be a key focus for the aged care sector.

For 77-year-old great-grandfather Colin Semmens, he is now 15 minutes away from his wife, Barbara, after living for 12 months at the Repat.

“The aged care home is wonderful, and the staff are all so kind and helpful. It really is like Colin’s living in his own home again.

“It means the world to us that he’s comfortable and well-looked after and that he can spend more time with his family who have missed him terribly.”

With her husband at Life Care’s Aldinga Beach facility, Mrs Semmens no longer has to undertake a daily 60-kilometre round trip to visit him, and Mr Semmens has access to long-term, tailored dementia care and support.

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