" It has been a challenging journey, but the reward, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment we now feel has made it all worthwhile. "
Earlwood residential facility introduces specialist dementia unit and practices

An aged care facility in Earlwood has been leading by example through the implementation of dementia-friendly practices and principles throughout its environment.

Katerina Kouris started working at the Greek Community Home for the Aged at Earlwood as a nurse in 2004. She has remained at the facility ever since, aside from a couple of stints working at external general and mental health facilities.

Following her most recent return to Earlwood in 2015, Katerina was appointed Director of Nursing & Facility Manager of the 48-bed facility, where around 98% of residents have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment. Despite that, however, Katerina admits the facility wasn’t previously well enough equipped to effectively cater for their needs.

Aware of ever-increasing dementia prevalence rates, Katerina also observed a growing sentiment amongst the local community in support of dementia-friendly principles. So, when a resident presented with changed behaviours due to Lewy body disease, the team were faced with a choice … either transfer the resident to a more specialised facility, or make changes at Earlwood that would accommodate his needs. Katerina and the Board chose to go with the latter option, and began instigating the changes.

Staff began to research dementia-friendly principles and entered into consultation with Alzheimer’s Australia NSW. The first major change introduced was a commitment by all staff to adopting a person-centered approach in all aspects of their care. Specialist behaviour consultants were brought in to help manage dementia-related behaviours of concern, and 10 staff members completed Alzheimer’s Australia NSW’s Dementia Essentials training, before bringing their learnings back and applying them to the Earlwood setting.

On a more practical level, keypads were placed on doors to reduce the risk of residents wandering; while colour and contrast on the walls, fixtures and fittings have been employed to help people with dementia identify key features.

Meaningful activities are offered to residents through the use of a kitchen, men’s shed, garden, veggie patches and a laundry and clothes line. Activity calendars based around the things residents need and enjoy are regularly developed to keep residents engaged.

Undoubtedly, the biggest achievement has been the establishment of a 10-bed specialist dementia unit, specifically designed for complex dementia cases, headed up by a dedicated team leader. The unit is colourful and peaceful, with a beautiful garden area that is safe for people with dementia to explore.

“It’s a sad reality that rates of dementia in Australia are expected to keep rising. For that reason, I believe it’s everybody’s responsibility to do whatever they can to enable people living with the disease to maintain a good quality of life,” said Katerina.

“I’m really proud of the way our staff have embraced the changes we’ve made, and of how hard they have worked to make this all a reality. They completely understood the significance of what we were setting out to achieve.”

“Family members of residents have told us how impressed they are with the changes, and the initiative has had en equally positive impact on the residents themselves. We’ve noticed residents who once had behavioural or care issues responding particularly well and have seen a decreased number of falls and hospitalisations.”

“It has been a challenging journey, but the reward, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment we now feel has made it all worthwhile. I’d say to other facilities – if you’ve been thinking about making these sorts of changes, just do it. For a person living with dementia, even small changes can make a massive difference.”

 Posted: September 4th, 2017

Diana said:

Absolutely gorgeous environment for our oldies. So very well done ❣️ Many Congratulations Katerina Kouris to you and your entire team ??

Poppy said:

Congratulations for you very hard job you've done Cathi you are amazing and all the stuff they work with heart and soul it's amazing it's really hard to work with dementia unit but when you love the job it's all pleasure to care

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Call the National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500