A new aged care home for people requiring specialist dementia care is ready to open its doors in Melbourne’s north-west as the Commonwealth program’s pilot site in Perth celebrates its first anniversary.

VMCH announced this week that Lady Lourdes House at St Bernadette’s Aged Care Residence in Sunshine North was ready to house older people with dementia who are unable to live in mainstream residential aged care.

Lady Lourdes House will provide care for eight residents within a purpose-built space appropriate for people with dementia as part of the Australian Government Department of Health’s Specialist Dementia Care Program (SDCP).

The SDCP targets people with very severe symptoms of dementia and is the third tier of support after the Dementia Services Australia operated Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Severe Behaviour Response Teams.

VMCH CEO Sonya Smart said Lady Lourdes House had been refurbished and architecturally designed with guidance from Professor Richard Fleming and the Dementia Enabling Environmental Principles.

Sonya Smart

“The future of exceptional aged care relies on providing services that are tailored to the individual.

“We believe this is a great opportunity to provide specialised care for those with dementia, where we can provide care and support, and empower our residents to live happy, fulfilled lives despite their disease.

“Lady Lourdes House will provide our residents with 12 months of intensive, supportive care, to help them manage their symptoms, so that they can then transition into a mainstream aged care residence of their choice,” Ms Smart said.

Lady Lourdes House, which is the 10th unit in the SDCP, will begin welcoming residents in the coming months, delayed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have already had four clients successfully transition out of the program into a less intensive care setting, with three more on a pathway to being discharged.”

Jennifer Lawrence, CEO of Brightwater Care Group.

First SDCU celebrates one year

David Brosnan with his wife Sandy, who is a client at Brightwater’s SDCP unit

Since kicking of the program with a trial one year ago, the program’s first unit at West Australian aged care provider Brightwater Care Group has had four clients transition into a less intensive care setting.

Brightwater The Village in Inglewood was the first of its kind in Australia to care for clients with very severe symptoms of dementia and whose needs could not be managed in existing health or aged care settings.

Brightwater CEO Jennifer Lawrence said the SDCP pilot was a strong demonstration of the organisation’s unique model of care.

Jennifer Lawrence

“The program has a focus on stablishing and reducing a person’s symptoms of dementia over time, with the hope to transition them to a less intensive setting,” she said.

Ms Lawrence said the program has already shown enormous success and a pathway for other units and the industry in Australia.

“We have already had four clients successfully transition out of the program into a less intensive care setting, with three more on a pathway to being discharged,” she said.

David Brosnan’s said the program had been wonderful for his wife Sandy, who has been part of the SDCP since last December.

“She was referred to the program last year and I have seen a huge difference in her. From the day she arrived she has found a sense of peace and is happier,” he said.

“The staff are outstanding. The care she receives and the love that is shown to Sandy is wonderful. Each staff member takes the time to spend genuine time with her and all of the clients.

The SDCP works alongside state and territory government services, the DBMAS, and SBRTs.

There are 35 SDCP units planned and a stated aim to have at least one unit in each of Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network regions by 2022–23.

“Dementia design should never be an afterthought.”

Professor Richard Fleming

ADI calls for embedding of dementia design

Also this week, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released the World Alzheimer Report 2020,  the most comprehensive report of its kind.

The report, released on World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September, has found that dementia design in the built environment is 30 years behind physical disabilities movement.

ADI is calling on governments around the world to recognise dementia as a disability and embed design in their national dementia responses.

Dementia design experts and co-author of the report, Professor Richard Fleming said dementia design was needed urgently.

Professor Richard Fleming

“Our knowledge of how to design buildings that support people living with dementia has grown over the last forty years and we are now in a position to be more proactive in implementing it in practice,” Mr Fleming said.

“The rising number of people living with dementia requires that their needs are considered at the beginning of every building project that is likely to be used by elderly people. Dementia design should never be an afterthought.”

Access the report here.

Main image: VMCH’s Lady Lourdes House at St Bernadette’s Aged Care Residence

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