Age services meeting dementia needs

By David O’Sullivan*
Friday, 06 September, 2019

Age services meeting dementia needs

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted the challenges of managing the growing prevalence of dementia in Australia.

With more than 438,000 people in Australian currently living with dementia, it is the second leading cause of death and the leading cause of death among women in Australia.

More than half of all residential aged-care residents have a diagnosis of dementia and they tend to have much higher care needs than residents who do not have dementia.

But while some evidence to the Royal Commission has thrown up examples of failures in care for people living with dementia, there are plenty of cases where age services are not only meeting the needs of those in their care but also leading the way in setting best practice standards for meeting the needs of older Australians with dementia.

Specialist care units

In Western Australia a $70 million Specialist Dementia Care Program is being trialled at The Village aged-care facility in Inglewood, operated by Brightwater Care Group.

It is the first of 34 specialist care units to be established across Australia.

CEO Jennifer Lawrence said the opportunity to inform and enhance broader rollout of the program will allow Brightwater to build industry capacity for this critical area of need in aged care.

“This program recognises that those with challenging and complex needs require additional support, and the pilot will include specialist person-centred and multidisciplinary care to address those needs,” she said.

The Specialist Dementia Care Program was developed through extensive consultation with dementia experts, clinicians, state and territory governments, dementia peak groups and carers of people living with dementia.

It includes a focus on a person-centred, multidisciplinary approach to care for people exhibiting severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged-care services.

Brightwater is working with a range of stakeholders to offer specialised, transitional residential support, focusing on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time, with the aim of enabling people to move to less intensive care settings.

Innovative design

On the other side of the country, an innovative concept based on best-practice models from overseas is being trialled in Tasmania.

Korongee dementia village in Glenorchy is based on a typical cul-de-sac streetscape, featuring 12 eight-bedroom homes that will support 96 residents within a small town complete with streets, a supermarket, cafe, beauty salon and gardens.

The village aims to help residents maintain a sense of self, home and community. Residents are provided dementia-specialised care and can walk around the village and participate in everyday life decisions such as going to the cafe to enjoy a coffee or heading to the supermarket to buy groceries for dinner.

Korongee was developed by not-for-profit aged-care provider Glenview in partnership with HESTA, specialist investment manager Social Ventures Australia and the Commonwealth Government.

Glenview CEO Lucy O’Flaherty said people living with dementia often struggle with unfamiliar spaces, colours and even decor, which is why each house will be designed to create familiar cultural touchstones of Tasmanian suburban life.


Technology is increasingly playing an important role in the management of people living with dementia in aged care.

IRT Group has partnered with Melbourne-based company IotTag to develop a tracking system to locate residents with early onset dementia who wander from sites.

Based on an existing design to locate missing domestic items such as keys or bags, it comprises hardware and a staff app which was tested in a two-stage proof of concept at IRT Woonona/IRT Kangara Waters. The system is now operational at IRT Kangara Waters.

Staff believe that in time this will free beds in care and secure dementia care, and may lead to individuals leaving care or secure care and moving back to low or self-care.

The next phase will include further rollouts and the implementation of a community drive piece in which the local community can download an app that allows IRT Group to leverage the GPS data and locate residents with more accuracy.

Once the bespoke solution is in place at selected IRT Group sites, IotTag will offer a generic version of the system to the general public and other aged-care providers.

Tools for carers

Recognising the growing need for better understanding around dementia, Churches of Christ in Queensland has secured the Australian licence for the Virtual Dementia Tour.

VDT is evidence-based experiential training that aims to provide a new level of empathy and understanding, leading to better outcomes for people living with dementia.

It uses sensory devices to alter participants’ senses as they try to complete common everyday tasks.

This enables people to experience for themselves the multisensory challenges faced by people living with dementia — making it an excellent tool for caregivers and loved ones.

While technology can never replace human caring, it can go some way to assisting to improve quality of life for those with dementia as well as their loved ones and carers.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney said it is also important that all aged-care facilities are adequately funded and staff are trained to provide high-quality dementia care.

“It is critical that dementia care is also seen as part of the core business of mainstream aged-care facilities and is appropriately supported by government,” he said.

“LASA wants to see government supporting a range of models for people living with dementia, addressing the wider issues of appropriate and flexible funding to care for these people in their own environments.

“Our ageing population presents an innovation imperative for the age services industry.

“We need to accelerate innovation and collaboration in our industry to translate ideas into action, resulting in better outcomes for older Australians.”

*David O’Sullivan is Senior Media & Communications Advisor for LASA.

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