The focus on dementia and aged care in Sydney over the past two weeks at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has reinforced Dementia Australia’s call for mandatory dementia-specific training for the aged care workforce, and for increases in staffing numbers with the appropriate skills mix.
Since this third round of hearings commenced, we have heard from a number of witnesses who have shared their own personal experiences of the aged care system and dementia.
Former Alzheimer’s Australia National CEO Glenn Rees, now Chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International, also appeared as a witness before the Commission, alongside representatives from various peak organisations and aged care providers, along with notable academics and health care professionals.
Transcripts from the hearings can be found at the Royal Commission website, by clicking here.
Tomorrow, we look forward to hearing from Professor Henry Brodaty AO, Honorary Medical Advisor for Dementia Australia. He will be joined in appearing before the Commission by Dementia Advocates Kate Swaffer, Chair and CEO of Dementia Alliance International and Trevor Crosby, both of whom are living with dementia, and will share their personal stories and insights.
Dementia Australia Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel AC said listening to the experiences shared by the witnesses during the hearings has been harrowing.
“I commend all the witnesses for their courage in stepping up to make a difference to ensure the systemic issues are raised and addressed by the Commission,” Prof Samuel said.
“The safety of all residents, staff and visitors is paramount at all times in residential aged care and equally so for all involved in community care.
“Dementia-specific training and evidence-based care can equip all staff to better support people living with dementia, especially those who present with any aggression or other challenging behaviours.
“There are many non-pharmacological interventions that must be considered as first line options when some of the challenging symptoms of dementia may present.
“Research shows the use of antipsychotic medication is appropriate in only about 20 per cent of cases.”
The environment has a powerful influence on the ability of the person living with dementia to process and interpret situations, interactions and surroundings.
“We know that many situations escalate because of an unmet need and for people living with dementia communication breakdowns can have serious consequences,” Prof Samuel said.
“For example, long corridors and identical doors may mean a person with dementia wanders in and out of other rooms because they are unable to find their own – potentially upsetting other residents.
“Even though we are in the midst of the Royal Commission there is still much that can be done without undermining the eventual recommendations.
“At the first opportunity after the election we will be approaching the Prime Minister and Health Minister with an urgent call to action that those living with dementia can’t wait another 12 months for the Royal Commission to hand down its findings.
“We have had so many inquiries into the issue of aged care and particularly into dementia.
“We have given evidence on many inquiries and senate committees about the overuse of chemical restraints.
“With the most recent Tune and Carnell Paterson reports we all know what needs to be done.
“I call on all parties and candidates to work with Dementia Australia to create an inclusive future where all people impacted by dementia receive appropriate care and support,” Prof Samuel said.
Dementia Australia has long called for reductions in the use of antipsychotic medications in aged care. For more information, click here.
And for all the updates on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, keep an eye on Dementia Australia’s dedicated webpage, by clicking here.