Above: The residential carer training program will take place at the new dementia-specific HammondCare Miranda site.
By Keryn Curtis
Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing , the ‘Going to Stay at Home’ study is looking at the impact that an intensive week-long residential training program for people with dementia and their carers can have on the longer term ability for the couple to remain at home.
Program Coordinator Julie Paterson said the live-in training program was for people with a diagnosis of dementia, who were living at home and had a primary carer. She said, while the program will be particularly good for people who live a long way from dementia support groups – such as in regional areas or within particular cultural groups - or who have recently received a diagnosis of dementia, there was no set exclusion criteria and anyone could nominate.
"It is available for 100 couples and is running between March and October 2013 in weekly groups of six couples,” said Ms Paterson.
“It will take place in a brand new eight bedroom dementia care cottage at the new Miranda site. The program participants will be accommodated in a bedroom with a private ensuite, while HammondCare’s trained dementia care staff will provide all meals and support, making it easier for the carer to participate in the program,” she said.
The person with dementia will also enjoy a program of pleasant activities, including ‘brain training’ exercises, while meals and recreational times are spent together with their loved ones.
Ms Paterson said the program was designed to equip carers with information, advice and useful strategies on a variety of topics with the aim of reducing carer stress and assisting the person with dementia to remain in their own homes for longer.
“We will cover of course all the facts about dementia, different types of dementia and what to expect over time from a range of perspectives.
“There is a future planning session – thinking about possible scenarios and planning for that. What if something happens to me and I need to go to hospital? We talk about legal issues, guardianship, financial planning; and quite practical things - one session is a demonstration of online shopping, for instance,” she said.
“There are nursing topics – including the ‘scary’ things – dealing with emotional issues and feelings; coping strategies; therapeutic activites, communication skills and how to develop support networks. And always is context of maintaining the person’s dignity and sense of self worth.”
Ms Paterson said an important area of the program addressed what they have called ‘re-roling’ issues.
“How do you learn to take on new roles like cooking or driving or bill paying, for example. You might have done all the shopping or cooking in your relationship but you’ve never been a driver. Or you might never have done any cooking and now you need to do all the cooking.
“And the vital importance of carers caring for themselves.”
She said it was the aim of the program to try to ensure that there are commonalities between each group.
“We would like to cluster the groups around something they have in common, like being from a common location or geographical area, having a similar cultural background, or perhaps they are dealing with a similar type of dementia, such as younger onset dementia.
“When there are these common backgrounds and experiences, it enables us to tailor the program and provide information that is really specific and relevant to those geographical areas or particular groups. One of the sessions is using community services effectively and that’s where it really helps if you can make it tailored to a particular location.
“The ideal will be to get each group to bond and to take their support network beyond the program, and keep it going themselves,” she said.
A successful model
The project aims to replicate the Prince Henry Hospital Carer’s Training Program’ conducted in 1987 and tracked for eight years. Led by Professor Henry Brodaty, Director of the Primary Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, and HammondCare’s Meredith Gresham, it showed positive effects during eight years of follow-up. Prof Brodaty is also involved in the evaluation of this project.
It is expected the current project will likewise achieve improved outcomes for carers and the person with dementia. Additionally, the project aims to determine the ongoing feasibility of residential-based carer education to assist people with dementia to remain in their own homes for longer.
The Going to Stay at Home project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, as part of the Aged Care Services Improvement and Healthy Ageing Flexible Fund.
For further information or to enquire about participating in the Going to Stay at Home program, email Julie Paterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0406 429 640.
Referrals are open now, in particular from any community aged care services, including HammondAtHome, as well as other health professionals or individuals.
While the residential program has been designed to suit couples, other carer arrangements are also possible. All applicants will be assessed before participating. The program will only run between March and October with spaces for only 100 couples. After October the project will move into the evaluation phase.