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An estimated two-thirds of Australians living in residential aged care live with moderate to severe cognitive impairment, so what are the requirements for dementia specific training for aged care workers?
What is the current situation?
Aged care providers are required to adhere to regulations and standards to ensure the care they deliver is appropriate. However, they are not required by law to educate their staff in dementia, even though many of the people they care for have a cognitive impairment. While some providers do provide a specific focus on supporting dementia, not everybody receives the same level or consistency of care.
Personal care workers make up 70 per cent of the direct care workforce. Currently, the minimum qualification for a personal care worker involves no compulsory units in dementia competency.
Why is there a lack of dementia care training for aged care workers?
There is an expectation by consumers and the regulator that providers can support the individual needs of each client/resident. However, as stories from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety have demonstrated, the capacity of providers to deliver quality dementia care has not been consistent.
With no legal or professional requirement for dementia education, there is limited motivation for health and aged care professionals to undertake further study in dementia. Equally there is no obligation on providers to ensure their workforce is suitably trained to support people living with dementia.
Because there is no compulsory training in dementia, not all providers have prioritised dementia education for their staff, and the lack of understanding by staff about how dementia may impact a person can lead to increased incidents, higher use of medication and lower quality of life for the client/resident as well as lower job satisfaction for the employee.
Are aged care workers interested in dementia care training?
Multiple surveys of the aged care workforce demonstrate that aged care staff want ongoing, comprehensive dementia training.
Health professionals who have recently completed dementia education are more likely to recognise the importance of understanding dementia and have a positive attitude towards people with the condition.
Does dementia care training lead to better outcomes for people living with dementia?
We know dementia education leads to fewer high-risk incidents, lower rates of inappropriate use of medication and more positive staff attitudes and morale, which ultimately results in better service delivery and quality of life for people living with dementia.
When people living with dementia receive care from professionals that have completed dementia education, fewer incidences of changed behaviour are experienced.
What is Dementia Australia’s position on this?
Dementia Australia recommends compulsory dementia education for the residential aged care workforce - including management and support staff - and all health care professionals involved in the care of residents.
As part of Dementia Training Australia we are working to establish national dementia education standards to set clear parameters against which dementia education can be assessed and delivered.
What minimum level dementia training can aged care workers access now?
There are many options for dementia education, that target different parts of the workforce and offer foundational through to higher-level education. For example, aged care workers can access the Ask Annie app. This tool provides practical tips and strategies to better support people living with dementia.
They can also complete ‘Dementia Essentials’ which is a fully funded, nationally recognised unit of competency, delivered by Dementia Training Australia. This course offers skills and strategies to help with communication, planning, developing activities and understanding changed behaviour in people living with dementia.
For more information about dementia training available to health and aged care workers visit: www.dementialearning.org.au or call 1300 DEMENTIA (1300 336 368).
What can families, friends and people living with dementia do to address this?
Ask to speak with the residential aged care provider and ask what training is available for staff. If nothing is available, suggest they call Dementia Australia.
Want to read more stories like this one? Subscribe to Dementia Australia’s eNews: https://www.dementia.org.au/newsletters
 Dementia Australia, Policy Position Paper - Dementia education and the residential aged care workforce, May 2022, https://www.dementia.org.au/sites/default/files/2022-06/Advocacy-Policy-Position-Statement-May-2022.pdf
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