Why do you keep talking to me? What do you want? I don’t understand what you are saying?
This is what can go through the mind of someone living with dementia as they try navigating the confusing, and often frustrating, thoughts and emotions swirling around their failing mind.
Almost half a million Australians live with dementia – and that number is projected to more than double within 40 years.
While the disease has been around for a long time it’s only in recent years our society has made large strides in really understanding what dementia is, how it affects people – not just seniors – and how to alleviate it.
Globally, countries are grappling with ageing populations and the associated increasing prevalence of dementia.
In Australia 1.5 million people are involved in caring for people with dementia, yet dementia training is not mandatory for aged care workers.
Dementia Australia chief Maree McCabe told the Royal Commission into Aged Care that 70 per cent of the aged care workforce had not received training on caring for residents experiencing dementia.
“With 50 per cent of all those in residential aged care having a diagnosis of dementia, almost every worker across the country is involved in caring for people impacted by dementia,” she says.
“Any organisation that takes on the care of a person living with dementia must commit to training their staff to ensure they are delivering quality dementia care in the home.”
To better understand dementia and learn how to communicate effectively with people affected by the disease, nurses and carers at Carinity are completing training from Dementia Australia and Wicking Dementia Centre, through the University of Tasmania.
“Knowing how to communicate effectively with people affected by dementia means Carinity can better support seniors in their daily living and activities that bring joy,” Carinity Colthup Manor Residential Manager Jo King says.
At the Carinity Colthup Manor aged care community in Ipswich, care staff have also undergone a “Virtual Dementia Tour”.
With the tour, staff were fitted with virtual reality equipment that alters their senses during simulations of real-life tasks to give them a better understanding of the physical and mental challenges faced by those with dementia.
“The Virtual Dementia Tour has helped our carers to better understand what can make residents confused,” Jo says.
Aggressive behavioural episodes involving residents living with dementia have decreased with carers’ better understanding the difficulties faced by people living with the condition.
“Our carers strive to learn more not only about the physiology of dementia but also to develop interventions to prevent adverse behaviours,” Jo says.
“Dementia is one of the most prevalent conditions to affect older members of the community, so it is important we are skilled in understanding the complexities.”
Dementia training for aged care and home care workers is not mandatory and only 30 per cent of the workforce across Australia has received dementia training.