In an Australian-first trial, NSW community service provider 3Bridges is piloting an integrated model of dementia support pioneered in the Netherlands.
The Meeting Centres Support Programme founded by Professor Rose-Marie Dröes from VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam provides person-centred support to people with mild to moderate dementia and their carers in the community.
The model provides an alternative to traditional day centres and has grown from two meeting centres in 1993 to over 144 Dutch centres today. A European trial of the meeting centres in the UK, Italy and Poland was also completed last year with positive results.
The key aspect of the Amsterdam model is the recognition that to support a person living with early-stage dementia also requires providing guidance and support to a person’s carers to help them cope with and adjust to changes.
As a result, the meeting centre provides a combined program of support to both the person with dementia and their carer at the same time and in a single setting.
The integrated supports include recreational, social and creative activities for the person with dementia, and advice, information and emotional support for informal carers. Weekly counselling sessions and regular day trips are also available to both.
As part of the Australian pilot, 3Bridges has set up a meeting centre at Carss Park in South-East Sydney, which is open to people with dementia of all ages and their carers three days a week, says Amal Madani, the organisation’s director of reframing ageing.
Staff at the centre include a team leader experienced in dementia education and counselling, a social worker, diversional therapist and exercise physiologist.
The meeting centre aims to provide strategies to help people manage the practical, emotional and social adjustments that take place following a diagnosis of dementia, says Madani, who has received training from the model’s founder in the Netherlands.
Support plans are reviewed monthly with the person with dementia and their family carer to ensure supports are responsive and individually tailored to their needs, she says.
3Bridges is partnering with the University of Sydney to evaluate the implementation of the Dutch model in the Australian context, including its cost effectiveness compared to traditional day centres.
International studies of the model have shown family carers felt more competent to provide care and experienced less burden and isolation, while the person with dementia became more active and socially engaged. Admission to residential care was also delayed for those attending the meeting centre.
Madani says important opportunities to model supportive behaviours and person-centred approaches are provided to family carers.
“The carer can observe how our team members engage with the person with dementia and can take what they learn out of that observation and modelling and apply it at home,” she tells Community Care Review.
The community support program creates an inclusive and social environment for people with dementia and their carers, she says.
“Visitors to the centre don’t necessarily know who the person with dementia, the carer or the staff member is. Club members and centre staff prepare and cook lunch together, sit and eat together and go for walks as a group.
“The program also works to destigmatise dementia, which is important,” she says.
As part of the model, 3Bridges runs regular free public education sessions on dementia for the local community and service providers.
While club member feedback has been positive, recruiting people with mild to moderate dementia to participate in the trial before their symptoms progress has proven to be the project’s biggest challenge, Madani says.
To learn from the experiences of other countries, Madani is attending an international conference in Amsterdam where she will also visit meeting centres in operation in the Netherlands. Madani is presenting on the initial stages of the Australian pilot at the congress on 7 June.
The two-year trial received funding from the Australian Government’s Dementia and Aged Care Services (DACS) fund.