A new research partnership between a university and aged care provider will give aged care staff specialised training to reduce behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and improve resident quality of life.
Under the four-year study, care staff at Goodwin Aged Care will complete a detailed training program and follow a structured approach to the identification and treatment of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) with non-pharmacological interventions.
Dr Moyra Mortby, of the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing at Australian National University, was awarded a $600,000 grant for the research late last year by the NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships Scheme.
While the prevalence of BPSD among residents in aged care was common, staff often had different levels of training in dementia care and management, Dr Mortby told Australian Ageing Agenda.
As such, she said the research aimed to deliver a standard level of understanding of BPSD, provide better support for staff in the provision of dementia care, and in turn, improve quality of life for residents.
If successful, Dr Mortby hoped the results could lead to a national, standardised approach to care for people with dementia and BPSD.
The training program, based on an approach developed in Sweden, will focus on providing staff strategies to identify other possible causes of BPSD, such as unaddressed pain or infections.
“If you can address those conditions first, the behaviours may disappear,” Dr Mortby said.
Reducing the use of pharmacological interventions and medical treatments is a further aim, and the study would look at the use of alternative treatments such as touch therapy and massage therapy, said Dr Mortby.
As AAA recently reported, new clinical guidelines for dementia endorsed by the Federal Government have cautioned against the use of antidepressants and antipsychotics, and argued BPSD be treated with non-pharmacological interventions in the first instance.
Dr Mortby said previous research into staff training on BPSD found that often the positive effects of interventions were unable to be sustained if not followed up regularly.
“What we really need to do is find ways of supporting care staff – especially because they’re very time poor – with methods to be able implement these interventions on an ongoing basis and maintain them over time,” she said.
In this way, the partnership with Goodwin Aged Care was vital to this research’s success, said Dr Mortby.
Goodwin operates two memory support units across its facilities. Further, executive manager of residential care Robyn Boyd said the organisation also recognises that around 85 per cent of its residents had a formal diagnosis of some form of cognitive impairment.
Ms Boyd told AAA that given rising prevalence rates, she hoped the research project would help in the development of a robust workforce equipped to provide quality dementia-specific care into the future.
“It’s not always easy to meet challenging behaviours and be successful. So we need our staff to be well-educated, well-trained and have the skill sets to be resilient in providing that care,” she said.
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