A pilot that involved aged care workers undertaking simulation training to learn strategies to deal with dementia-related agitation has resulted in fewer aggressive incidents at work and increased staff confidence.

The Flinders University study, which took place in July and August 2017, involved 17 experienced personal care workers undertaking a combination of education, simulation training that used real cases and actors, and personalised coaching.

The program aimed to improve the ability of female aged care workers to identify triggers and apply strategies to avoid and manage aggressive behaviours, said Nicky Baker, interprofessional clinical lead at Flinders University’s Clinical Teaching and Education Centre.

In the two months prior to the training program, five aged care workers reported six or more incidents while two months after the training only one reported six or more incidents, Ms Baker, told the National Elder Abuse Conference on Monday.

Over the same period, the number of workers who reported four-to-six incidents also fell, according to the findings.

“Staff are still involved in incidents [but] the number who reported more than six events has dropped significantly.” Ms Baker told delegates.

The results show a move to people reporting fewer instances overall, she said.

Power of simulation training

The co-designed education package has six modules including on communication skills, factors contributing to anxiety and aggression and strategies to prevent, reduce or stop escalation.

Professionals and experts working in residential aged care provided the personalised coaching, which aimed to embed appropriate responses, said Ms Baker.

Similarly, the simulation training involved authentic cases from the staff in aged care and actors playing the roles of aged care clients.

“The beauty of simulation is you immediately put your theory into practice. You experience it. It is real and hard work,” Ms Baker said.

While it is draining to be in an aggressive situation repeatedly, simulation allows people to respond and learn from their response, she said.

Staff can develop strategies to avoid situations escalating, Ms Baker said.

The pilot also asked staff to assess their self-efficacy in identifying, preventing, and managing challenging behaviours before and after the training.

“After the simulation training the reported self-efficacy was high. Six months down the track it stayed high, above baseline, which is important,” Ms Baker said.

“Their ability to be confident at work and identify and manage agitation and manage aggression has improved.”

The researchers now aim to provide this program as a professional development activity for aged care and expand the training to other industries where dealing with agitation and aggression is an issue, Ms Baker said.

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  1. We need to work to get this skills training module into the nationally recognized training courses for more than the aged care workers i.e. doctors, nurses and disability sector workers as part of best practice

  2. This program should also be available to the many informal carers looking after elderly people at home. They often have to manage challenging behaviours without any training .

    In any future planning the informal carers must be recognised

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