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The latest addition to our Alzheimer Scotland Annual Conference guest blog comes from Dr Julie Christie, Region Manager UK and Europe, for Australian-based HammondCare. Dr Christie gives insight into the new developments taking place in specialist dementia care in Australia:

Australia is big. If you were to sit Australia over a map of Europe it would almost completely cover it. It also has three main time zones. Dementia Support Australia (DSA) is a world-first initiative to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their care networks via a unique evidence-based approach. The service provides tailored and personal advice to identify the underlying causes of stressed and distressed behaviour in people living with dementia, at home, in hospital, and in residential care settings across Australia. Accurately assessing the person and the care environment and understanding the reasons for a person’s behaviour lie at the heart of this service. This involves a multi-disciplinary team of dementia experts and a network of clinical associates.

Since it’s commencement in October 2016, this Australian Government funded program, which is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, has supported over 14,000 people. Despite the sheer size of the country the initiative serves, not to mention the differing time zones, DSA provides a nationally consistent service in partnership with local support networks, delivered on site and within 48 hours of the initial referral being made. The aim is to avoid unnecessary transitions to hospital or other care settings and/or pharmacological interventions.

The program also builds sector capacity through mentoring, modelling, training and interventions in order that staff are skilled to respond to future events. One example of this is the identification and management of chronic pain experienced by many people with dementia, and under recognised by care staff. This is a key issue and responding to pain has a huge impact on the quality of life of many people with dementia and can explain a lot of the behaviours that staff find difficult to understand.

There are, however, a very small proportion of people who require a specialist dementia care setting. This consists of well-designed environments, skilled multi-disciplinary teams, and therapeutic and meaningful activities. To date, people living with dementia who would benefit from such an environment have only had access to a few care settings. One of these is Linden, operated by HammondCare for over 10 years. The Australian Government has now announced the creation of 35 specialist dementia care settings similar to Linden, with the first opening this year. The remaining facilities will then be operational in each of the primary health regions of Australia.

Dementia Support Australia is playing a vital role in the operation of these new programmes. HammondCare, in partnership with the Australian Government, is using the extensive data generated through the DSA service to determine the most effective pathway to access this specialist care but also importantly to return home, or to a homely setting from specialist dementia care facilities too. Second, specialist DSA Consultants will be responsible for assessing the eligibility of every referral into this new program to ensure that the specific needs of that person are met. In this new chapter of specialist dementia care within Australia, at HammondCare, we’re looking forward to continuing our role in making sure people living with dementia in Australia get access to the right service, at the right time.

By joining us at this year’s annual conference, you’ll be able to hear more about Dr Christie and HammondCare’s work, during our “Improvements and innovations in specialist dementia care” breakout session. Find out more in our full conference programme.

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