Meeting the dementia challenge

Dementia is proving one of the biggest challenges facing the aged care sector.

The number of people living with dementia is increasing rapidly with about half of those entering aged care now diagnosed with the disease. Most people with dementia still live in their own home and increasingly when they choose to move into residential aged care, the disease is advanced and their needs are specialised.

In Australia, it’s estimated well over 400,000 Australians are living with dementia, with this figure set to more than double in the next 25 years. It is the single greatest cause of disability in Australians aged over 65, and aside from the significant personal impact, the financial cost is currently estimated to be $15 billion, increasing to a predicted $36.8 billion in 2056.

To address the extent of the challenge, Uniting AgeWell is progressively implementing an organisation-wide response detailed in its Dementia Framework and Action Plan, which was developed in partnership with esteemed mental health expert Allan Woodward and released in May 2021.

Holistic in its approach, it is applicable to all the ways Uniting AgeWell supports people with dementia – in the community, in people’s homes and in our residential care facilities. Underpinning the framework is Uniting AgeWell’s commitment to excellence in dementia care.

Uniting AgeWell’s objectives for dementia care

  • Quality of life – to maximse a person’s quality of life through quality care
  • Dignity and rights – to uphold a person’s privacy, choice and individual expression and create safe and comfortable environments to minimise distress
  • Meaningful activity – to provide opportunity for family and social interaction and to match activity with the person’s maximum capacity
  • Evidence-based practice – to know of and adopt best practice in dementia care and train and support staff at all levels to provide this
  • Communication – to ensure respectful and dementia-appropriate communication and maintain collaborative care plans with the person and their families/carers
  • Accountability – to systematically monitor care outcomes and to achieve minimal coercion or restraint in managing behavioural symptoms

The Dementia Framework has six key strategies

  1. Models of dementia care
  2. Environments, facilities and residential care homes
  3. Behavioural and psychological symptoms relief
  4. Workforce
  5. Partnerships
  6. Governance and continuous improvement

Actions to date

A Dementia Working Group has been formed which includes representatives from both Home Care and Residential Care. This group is working through an action plan developed to meet the six strategies.

Actions to date have included:

  • Development of a Dementia Policy and Practice Standard
  • Development of the Clinical Pathway for Home Care and Residential Care
  • Creation of a dementia glossary
  • Development of an education framework including dementia mandatory training and advanced education
  • Development of an online Dementia Learning Hub
  • Paincheck trialled. An app that recognises changes in facial expressions (ie. grimacing) showing that a person living with dementia who cannot verbalise well has pain;
  • Environmental audits of Memory Support Units by Dementia Australia in both Tasmania and Victoria. A list of environmental improvements for each area is being developed
  • Training for Lifestyle staff from Dementia Australia which also covers the subject of sexuality and intimacy
Find out more about Uniting AgeWell’s approach to Dementia Care