Around 65% of Australians living with dementia reside in the community, so home care can be an important part of continuing to lead a fulfilling life.
During Dementia Action Week, September 19 – 25, Dementia Australia is calling on everyone in the community to discover that a little of the right support makes a big difference.
Below are some tips and tricks that home care workers can use to make a big difference in the lives of clients with dementia.
But first, why is Dementia Action Week important?
Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Prestige Inhome Care, Nick McDonald, said it is important to raise awareness of the disease through Dementia Action Week and has his own experiences with the condition through his mother, who was diagnosed with dementia.
“As someone who has lost a mother to this terrible disease, and walked alongside her on that terrible journey, I know there are many ways we can enhance the lives of people living with dementia and their families,” Mr McDonald said.
“Raising awareness of dementia leads to better understanding and informs people to better respond to the behaviours and symptoms.
“Better understanding helps reduce the stress felt by families and carers and improve the experience they have with dementia.”
The more the community is aware of dementia, the more negative stigma will be reduced as well, and the more pathways to positively engage with people with dementia will be opened.
So what can you as a home care worker to improve your interactions with clients with dementia?
Around 20% of Prestige’s clients live with dementia and Mr McDonald’s late mother lived at home for as long as possible with care, so he has experience in what that care should look like.
Mr McDonald said it was important that home care staff were matched well with clients with dementia, so they could form a strong connection.
“We believe individually matched staff and continuity of carers is critical for all home based care services,” explained Mr McDonald.
“This is even more significant for someone living with dementia as routine – familiarity and consistency are critical to supporting people with dementia.
According to Mr McDonald, carers also need to have the right skills to look after the wellbeing of a client with dementia.
These skills include understanding how to handle complex behaviours, patience, a helpful nature, and being able to keep the person with dementia safe and comfortable while living well at home.
“They also need to have proper training in understanding dementia and how to minimise the impacts,” added Mr McDonald.
Finding training that can best educate you in dementia care can be really beneficial. Mr McDonald’s employees receive free training through Dementia Australia. If you are looking for dementia training, you can start at the Dementia Training Australia website.
The way you care for a client with dementia needs to be specific to that person’s personality, preferences and living situation.
This is because each person deserves to be treated as an individual, not just ‘another person with dementia’, and will have different care needs to other clients.
Mr McDonald said treating the client as an individual helps to maintain their dignity and to support them to lead a fulfilling life.
“A generalised approach to care will not fully support what is a complex condition, and can in fact create more problems for the clients and their families,” explained Mr McDonald.
“People living with dementia have individual needs. The way dementia presents is very different from client to client.
“A customised care plan that addresses and supports their individual needs is important to deliver quality and effective care.”
This individualised care should include services that help the person to live at home as long as they want to, such as:
Home care workers can also work closely with family members and others involved in the care of a person living with dementia, so that all care is consistent and collaborative.
There is also a difference between providing care to clients with dementia and clients without dementia that home care workers need to understand.
Mr McDonald explained that there are extra risk factors for people living with dementia that need to be taken into account, including unpredictable behaviour, wandering and home safety.
“Having the skills and strategies to deal with these risks allows carers to better support their client and enable them to live with dignity and independence,” he said.
Do you have any other tips for supporting people with dementia? Tell us in the comments below.