Simplicity is important when communicating with a person with dementia, the head of Dementia Australia tells Community Care Review.

Consumer advocacy organisation Dementia Australia is developing a new digital learning platform over the next three years to help care workers better understand dementia.

Dementia Australia has been awarded a multi-year major grant from Gandel Philanthropy to fund the program.

The platform will help care workers improve their communication skills, make changes to their behaviour and better engage with people with dementia.

Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning began developing the platform in October 2019.

Importance of communication skills

Maree McCabe

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said that dementia is a progressive disease and communication skills are important.

“There will be times during the person’s experience with dementia where their ability to communicate will change and their capacity to understand what’s being communicated will change as well,” she told Community Care Review.

“And it’s really important that we provide staff and carers with the skills to be agile and to be able to adapt their communication to best meet the needs of the person living with dementia.”

A key part of that is keeping the person living with dementia engaged for as long as possible, and being able to understand that communication, according to Ms McCabe.

“We need to ensure that people understand that the simplicity of the message is important, that there are different techniques that people can use that will make a difference to the person’s ability to understand and respond,” she said.

Traditional learning has many benefits but it also has a lot of gaps, Ms McCabe said. She is hoping the new platform will fill some of those gaps.

“One of the visions for the new digital platform is about creating unique and immersive learning experiences that move and touch people, and inspire them to ensure more meaningful outcomes that can be translated into everyday practice and care,” she said.

Addressing concerns of care workers

The platform will be informed by the experiences of people living with dementia and carers.

“We need to know the challenges they’re faced with on a daily basis and how we can best adapt our platform to meet those challenges,” Ms McCabe said.

The platform aims to address concerns expressed by care workers, such as difficulty identifying things that can trigger a challenging response in a person living with dementia.

“We want to be able to create environments for people living with dementia where they feel nurtured, where they feel respected and they feel involved,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Australia is planning on releasing the first learning tools for the platform in 2020.

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