Delivering high-quality dementia care

Dementia Australia

Thursday, 08 February, 2024

Delivering high-quality dementia care

Dementia prevalence in the community and residential aged care is significant. We know 68.1% of aged care residents have moderate to severe cognitive impairment and two in three of the 421,000 Australians with dementia live in the community, writes MAREE McCABE, CEO at Dementia Australia.

With this high prevalence, everyone working across the healthcare industry, including health, aged care and disability, ought to be receiving compulsory education about dementia to increase their understanding, knowledge and skills in dementia care.

When people living with dementia receive care from professionals that have completed dementia education, there are fewer incidents of changed behaviour and people living with dementia have a more consistent experience of quality care.

We know dementia education leads to a reduction in high-risk incidents, lower rates of inappropriate medication use and more positive staff attitudes and morale, which ultimately results in better service delivery and quality of life for people living with dementia.

How can this be achieved?

Dementia Australia is focusing on implementing change in the following areas:

  • Dementia support pathways: People living with dementia, their families and carers must have optimal access to the integrated services and supports they need to live the life they choose.
  • Building workforce capability: The workforce, leadership and culture must understand and support dementia and have the skills and knowledge to sustainably embed quality dementia care.
  • Dementia-friendly design: Physical environments must support people living with dementia to be as independent as possible.

All of these things are underpinned by people living with dementia placed firmly at the centre.

With a longer-term focus and vision that includes dementia specialisation in all pathways to nursing and aged care qualifications, we can ensure aged care and dementia will become a more appealing career to pursue for healthcare professionals and will attract the qualified staffing numbers needed for the future.

In the short term, upskilling the current workforce using existing education tools from the Centre for Dementia Learning at Dementia Australia will begin to alleviate some of the pressures and challenges of caring for someone living with dementia.

Dementia care programs for workers

Educating the workforce has been the focus of the Centre for Dementia Learning for a number of years and four Leadership and Practice Change education programs for care workers have recently been launched.

These programs will deliver engaging education to build the dementia capability of future leaders in the sector, as well as creating lasting change through leadership and culture change that in turn promotes improved behaviours, attitudes and care practices for all care workers.

Strong leadership in aged care is fundamental to the delivery of high-quality dementia care. It was recognised as a critical element of sustained practice improvements by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, and in response, also by the federal government.

At the heart of these programs, the Centre for Dementia Learning works to engage, enable and empower participants to develop real insights into what it is like to live with dementia, and in so doing, change their attitudes and behaviours — which in turn transforms their practice. 

The sooner the aged care workforce is accessing appropriate dementia care education and training the sooner we will begin to see the changes needed to improve the health, lifestyle and care outcomes for people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers.

We know from our work and broad consultation with people living with dementia, their families and carers that if we get quality care right for people living with dementia then there will be quality care for all.

Image credit: Ismatova

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