Immediate coordinated action needed to save lives of people living with dementia

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Dementia Australia has called for immediate action to prevent neglect or worse - premature death – and ensure appropriate support and care of people living with dementia in residential aged care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said while a discussion about the current systemic breakdowns is both valid and necessary, our focus must be on the crisis at hand in Victoria.

“With more than 50 per cent of people living in residential aged care having a diagnosis of dementia, and many more undiagnosed, anyone being deployed and trained to provide care must be trained in infection control, and also in the very basics of dementia care,” Ms McCabe said.

“People living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our care during this pandemic. 

“They and their loved ones are trusting us to get it right.

“We have provided the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) with access to training, multiple resource links and the National Dementia Helpline - 1800 100 500 -  to enable staff – whether they are administrative, clinical, logistics, transport, emergency services, aged care or hospital staff – to know they can contact Dementia Australia to assist with strategies, further information and resources.

“A call to Dementia Australia’s National Dementia Helpline will introduce VACRC teams and agencies to the experience and wealth of knowledge and strategies that may just be the breakthrough in support a caller needs to avoid an incident or to de-escalate a challenging situation.

“To transfer a resident with dementia from a home into an ambulance who might be resisting, to move a resident to a new room who appears distressed, or deliver daily care or treatment smoothly, efficiently and, most importantly at this time safely, takes expertise.

“Our Helpline and counselling staff can offer immediate advice and link callers to other specialist services such as the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Serious Behaviour Response Team when needed.  

“Currently the system is supported by teams from government, defence, hospitals, emergency services and logistics frantically working to keep people safe.

“Their combined expertise is crucial and so is ensuring they understand dementia and what is involved in caring for someone who may have limited ability to communicate, feed or clean themselves, or who are physically active and need to be supported for their safety and that of others.

“Effective communication between the person living with dementia, family carers, their treating doctor, pharmacist and other health and aged care professionals to ensure that the use of chemical and physical restraints is a last resort is essential.

“For residents living with dementia a change in routine, unfamiliar faces and the uncertainty about what is going on around them may exacerbate anxiety, as well as other symptoms of dementia.

“Now more than ever, dementia-specific education needs to be extended to hospitals, ambulance, emergency services, and logistics teams.

“We recognise the challenging situation governments and aged care providers are dealing with, especially in Victoria, and we are here to support all staff to provide quality dementia care. 

“I urge anyone working within the current system in Victoria to call our National Dementia Helpline as questions and concerns arise, on 1800 100 500, or visit dementia.org.au for webchat, resources and information in other languages. 

“For 24 hour support they can call the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) on 1800 699 799.”

Dementia Australia COVID-19 Information and resources can be found at www.dementia.org.au. Information about online learning can be found at www.dementialearning.org.au.