The Government is seeking community input on how to best implement planned new Specialist Dementia Care Units (SDCUs) for people living with severe behaviours associated with advanced dementia.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the establishment of the units was an election promise and part of the Government’s comprehensive strategy for dementia care and treatment.

A Specialist Dementia Care Unit provides one-on-one care for people who experience very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and are unable to be supported in a mainstream aged care service.

This may include someone with a high level of mobility and more likely to put themselves or someone else in danger. It could also involve someone showing very severe and persistent behaviour, very severe depression, noisy outbursts, a lack of inhibition, unpredictable moods and possible suicidal tendencies.

A Specialist Dementia Care Unit provides care for people who require more support than can be provided through Severe Behaviour Response Teams or existing residential care services.

“These units will make up the third tier of the innovative plan we have been rolling out across the nation, building on the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and the Severe Behaviour Response Teams,” Minister Wyatt said.

“With an estimated 350,000 Australians already living with this condition, we understand the importance of doing everything we can to support improved dementia care, treatment and research.”

The Minister said the SDCU feedback would inform advice to Government on the final shape of the initiative, including funding and administrative options.

“We want to hear from individuals and organisations who have knowledge about or experience of dementia, especially an understanding of the needs and care for people with very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD),” said Minister Wyatt.

“This may include aged care workers, health professionals, academics, peak body representatives, policy makers, people with dementia, and their families and carers.”

Once the preferred model of care and administrative arrangements are decided by Government, there will be further targeted consultation with stakeholders on detailed implementation and transition strategies.

“It’s proposed that SDCUs could operate as small units, comprising eight to 12 beds, within larger residential aged care facilities,” Minister Wyatt said.

“They will provide a person-centred, multidisciplinary approach to care for people with very severe BPSD who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged care services.

“The units will offer specialised, transitional residential support, focussing on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time, with the aim of enabling the person to move into a less intensive care setting.“

Minister Wyatt said it was projected that around one million Australians could be affected by dementia by 2050.

“The Turnbull Government is focussed on tackling dementia, through partnerships and innovation, including a $200 million investment in world-class dementia research,” the Minister said.

“We have also implemented improved dementia care over the past two years, including consolidating a single, nationally consistent Dementia Training Program for the aged care and health workforce.”

Location of the units will be based on demographic and geographic needs, with some regions likely to require access to more than one unit. The makeup of the units will be developed in consultation with the aged care sector and dementia experts.

A key priority is to ensure people living with dementia in rural and remote locations will have access to a unit, particularly in areas which currently cannot access specialist support services.

Specialist Dementia Care units will be rolled out over the next four years across Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network regions.

Stakeholders wanting to provide feedback on the SDCU initiative can visit the Department of Health’s Consultation Hub to read the paper and make a submission. Respondents can provide input on some, or all, of the topics and questions in the consultation paper.

People encountering any difficulties using the Hub should email dementia@health.gov.au for assistance.

The consultation period closes on 21 January 2018.

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