Dementia education should be at the forefront of all aged care workforce considerations, writes Danielle Wrench.
The number of people living with dementia in our community, either at home or in residential aged care, is increasing. Because of this, there is a very real and urgent need to improve the knowledge and skills of aged care staff to provide best practice dementia care.
This issue has been heard time and time again during recent royal commission hearings.
Standard 7 of the Aged Care Quality Standards, which came into effect on 1 July this year, covers training and qualifications. It states an organisation must have a workforce that is “skilled and qualified to provide safe, respectful and quality care and services”.
Employing trained staff, and upskilling existing staff, should be top-of-mind for all organisations in this space.
When it comes to dementia a very specific skill set, and a measure of compassion, is needed to ensure the best possible support can be provided.
This includes an understanding of the lived experience of dementia. Not just how it affects a person’s brain physically, but how it affects them emotionally and spiritually.
A person with dementia can have a very different view of the world around them to you or I, and that view can be overwhelming and frightening at times. Supporting people living with dementia is complex work and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Different types of dementia come with a range of different symptoms, and the impact of a persons’ cognitive impairment is individualised. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.
Staff skilled in dementia care will have expertise and empathy in equal measure and will, more often than not, be able to create a genuine connection with a person with dementia. This will help create a trusting relationship and put the person at ease.
We and likeminded organisations specialise in providing dementia education to staff in all areas of aged care. From workshops on person-centred communication for staff new to aged care to more intensive accredited education for more experienced staff or those specialising in working with those living with dementia, there is something for everybody.
About 50 per cent of people in aged care are diagnosed with dementia, and many more live at home accessing home care services. Dementia education should be at the forefront of our thinking when considering our aged care workforce.
Ideally, existing staff would have dementia-specific training made available to them throughout their career to ensure their skills and knowledge remain current.
Training is a valuable investment and history tells us when staff are better prepared they are happier in their role, and this has a positive impact on the care they provide.
Danielle Wrench is general manager at Alzheimer’s WA, which provides advocacy, education and support for Western Australians living with all types of dementia.
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