Voices of experience reinforce need for dementia training

Friday 10 May 2019

The focus on dementia and aged care in Sydney this week at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has reinforced Dementia Australia’s call for mandatory dementia-specific training for the aged care workforce, and for increases in staffing numbers with the appropriate skills mix.

Dementia Australia Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel AC said listening to the experiences shared by the witnesses has been harrowing.

“I commend all the witnesses for their courage in stepping up to make a difference to ensure the systemic issues are raised and addressed by the Commission,” Prof Samuel said.

“The safety of all residents, staff and visitors is paramount at all times in residential aged care and equally so for all involved in community care.

“Dementia-specific training and evidence-based care can equip all staff to better support people living with dementia, especially those who present with any aggression or other challenging behaviours.

“There are many non-pharmacological interventions that must be considered as first line options when some of the challenging symptoms of dementia may present.

“Research shows the use of antipsychotic medication is appropriate in only about 20 per cent of cases.”

The environment has a powerful influence on the ability of the person living with dementia to process and interpret situations, interactions and surroundings.

“We know that many situations escalate because of an unmet need and for people living with dementia communication breakdowns can have serious consequences,” Prof Samuel said.

“For example, long corridors and identical doors may mean a person with dementia wanders in and out of other rooms because they are unable to find their own – potentially upsetting other residents.

“Even though we are in the midst of the Royal Commission there is still much that can be done without undermining the eventual recommendations.”

“At the first opportunity after the election we will be approaching the Prime Minister and Health Minister with an urgent call to action that those living with dementia can’t wait another 12 months for the Royal Commission to hand down its findings.

“We have had so many inquiries into the issue of aged care and particularly into dementia.

“We have given evidence on many inquiries and senate committees about the overuse of chemical restraints.

“With the most recent Tune and Carnell Paterson reports we all know what needs to be done.

“I call on all parties and candidates to work with Dementia Australia to create an inclusive future where all people impacted by dementia receive appropriate care and support,” Prof Samuel said.

Dementia Australia has long called for reductions in the use of antipsychotic medications in aged care.

For reference The use of restraints and psychotropic medications in people with dementia 2014*.

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Dementia Australia is the national peak body and charity for people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 447,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach almost 1.1 million by 2058. Dementia Australia is the new voice of Alzheimer’s Australia. Dementia Australia’s services are supported by the Australian Government.

National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 Interpreter service available                                                                                                                                             

(The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)                                                                                                       

Dementia is a National Health Priority Area                                                                                www.dementia.org.au

Media contacts: Christine Bolt 0400 004 553 christine.bolt@dementia.org.au, Fiona Wade 0407 019 430 | fiona.wade@dementia.org.au   

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia Language Guidelines.

*This publication refers to Alzheimer’s Australia. In October 2017 the organisation changed its name to Dementia Australia.