Initiative aims to boost dementia knowledge facility-wide

VMCH has developed an in-house training program for its residential aged care staff to promote a better understanding of dementia.

Victorian aged care, retirement living and disability services provider VMCH has developed an in-house training program for its residential aged care staff to promote a better understanding of dementia.

The interactive program has been designed by staff for staff and participation is compulsory, said VMCH dementia services specialist Elizabeth Baxter.

Elizabeth Baxter

“The training is mandatory for all residential aged care staff – from cleaners, hospitality workers, nurses, admin staff and drivers – recognising that each person has a special role to play in facilitating good outcomes for people living with dementia,” Ms Baxter said.

During the course of the program, staff are taught about how dementia affects the brain, how to problem-solve behaviours of concern, and how to create meaningful opportunities through valued roles and activities.

With the latter in mind, staff invite residents to help out with daily chores. “This participation from residents empowers them to feel autonomous and engaged in aspects of their lives that may traditionally be taken away from them when they move into a residential setting,” said Ms Baxter. “This could be anything from cooking, folding clothes, cleaning, or sorting items.”

Staff are also encouraged to communicate meaningfully with the residents living with dementia. “If we take every opportunity to invite, engage and interact with our residents, we can maximise their opportunities to maintain personal capabilities and achieve purpose and meaning in their everyday life,” Ms Baxter said.

Lifestyle coordinator Kerrin Curnow is among hundreds of VMCH staff to have already completed the training program. She said it was satisfying to spend quality time with the residents.

“Working in aged care can be extremely busy and you can get bogged down with day-to-day tasks, so it was great to take a step back and have that really meaningful time to spend with residents,” said Ms Curnow. “Getting to know their life stories helped us inform activities that they enjoyed and gave them purpose. Activities that make them feel worthy, wanted, and useful.”

Ms Curnow said she cares for the residents as she would a member of her family. “I treat each resident as if they were my own grandparent; how I would want them to be looked after and treated with love, respect, and a listening ear,” she said. “It is truly a blessing and a joy to be able to give daily to our residents and help them throughout their lives.”

This week is Dementia Action Week – an annual event that aims to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia. Learn more here.

Main image: a VMCH resident with staff member Kerrin Curnow

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