The new aged care quality standards don’t ensure quality dementia care will be delivered to people living with dementia, says Dementia Australia.

But the peak body for dementia in Australia has spoken to those with lived experience of dementia in forums all around the country to find out what is important to them. 

Using the insights they gathered, Dementia Australia has formulated a series of recommendations to support the eight accreditation standards, which only came into effect on 1 July 2019.

The recommendations have been compiled into a ‘communique’ which has been delivered to the Aged Care Minister, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck.

What is quality dementia care?

The communique sets out what constitutes quality dementia care according to the people who live with the condition, as well as their families and carers.

Mareee McCabe, chief executive officer Dementia Australia, told HelloCare, “One of the things we don’t define in the (accreditation) standards, and it’s not well defined and articulated anywhere, is what quality dementia care is.”

Consultation from across Australia

The communique has been developed after consultation in 31 forums across Australia involving 137 people, including those living with dementia, their families and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those from an Aboriginal background, and those from LGBTI communities.

“People living with dementia, their families and carers attended those forums and we worked through what is it that’s of the most importance to you, and to your carer and your family,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia training should be mandatory 

Ms McCabe said Dementia Australia is calling for mandatory dementia training for all staff who work in aged care, whether it be in the community or residential care.

“Seventy percent of people living in the community (are living with dementia). So where we have home care packages, it’s essential staff are well grounded in what dementia is, and how best to support people living with dementia,” Ms McCabe said.

“Fifty percent who are in residential care have a diagnosis of dementia. Many more have it but are not diagnosed, and many more will develop it throughout their time in residential care,” she said.

Sufficient staff must be available

Ms McCabe did not say staff skill ratios should be mandated, but she said it’s important that staff are appropriately skilled and that there are enough staff to provide the appropriate level of care.

“You need to acknowledge that skill mix is important,” she said.

“There (has to be) sufficient staff available to care for people living with dementia and to provide the standard of care that is appropriate, is needed, and that people deserve.”

Each individual’s needs will also change over time.

“As the dementia progresses, there will be changes that occur and we need to ensure staff have the appropriate level of skill to be able to support people when those changes occur. That will be different from person to person and will vary as their dementia progresses,” she said.

More people with lived experience of dementia required at board level

Dementia Australia would like to see people with lived experience of dementia represented at board level, which until now has not been common. 

The engagement may be as simple as more often feeding information directly from people living with dementia back to the board, Ms McCabe said.

“I think it’s really important that people with the lived experience have input into decisions that affect them and when these decisions are being made, people living with dementia have input,” she said.

Embedding recommendations into quality standards the end goal

The communique is ‘stage one’ of the process for Dementia Australia. 

State two is a round table with approved providers and government departments to discuss how the recommendations can be integrated into the standards and what organisations can do to support implementation.

Dementia Australia is also holding a symposium in March 2020 about best practices for people living with dementia both here in Australia and overseas. 

“That will round off with the final development of the recommendations, and then our work is to have them embedded into the accreditation standards,” Ms McCabe said.

As the first step in the process, the communique reflects the views and care needs of those living with dementia, as well as their family and carers.

“It’s important people have an understanding what the impact of living with dementia is, and there is nobody in a better position to be able to inform than people with the lived experience.”

HelloCare contacted the Aged Care Minister Senator Richard Colbeck for a comment, but at the time of publishing had not received a response.

To read Dementia Australia’s communique ‘Quality care for people living with dementia’ click here.

 

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