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In the lead up to both the federal budget and throughout the election campaign, Dementia Australia has been standing alongside people impacted by dementia in calling on all political parties and candidates to commit to quality dementia care in their policy platforms.
Election priority one: The introduction of compulsory dementia education for aged care workers
Isabelle says that if only the staff at her mother’s aged care facility had dementia training she would have been able to spend more quality time with her mum.
“I could have spent more time engaging in rewarding experiences with my mum such as walking or gardening and less time responding to behavioural challenges,” Isabelle said.
“Laughing in the face of a person who is distressed because you think they can’t understand you only leads to increased agitation
“This agitation was in my mother’s case treated with anti-psychotic medication which in turn lead to more drowsiness and less quality time that we could share as a family.
“If my mum had quality care in the last years of her life, I could have spent more time making valuable memories with her"
More than two thirds of aged care residents have moderate to severe cognitive impairment and 80% of aged care residents with dementia require high level care.
Dementia education is considered the most needed training by both the home care workforce and service providers.
Election priority two: The establishment of a national dementia palliative care program
Vern cared for his wife Rosemary who lived with dementia but sadly passed away in May 2021.
“Caring for a person with dementia brings unique strains, stresses and challenges; emotional, physical and often financial that aren’t always obvious to those who have not had a lived experience of dementia and dementia caring in their households,” Vern said.
“It can be socially isolating as many friends and even other family members find it a highly emotive and confronting condition.
“And sadly, often means that many dementia patients enter full time care prematurely.
“Dementia Australia’s palliative care Nightingale Program means that dementia care can be survivable, and I commend it for serious support by the Australian Government.”
The Nightingale Program is a palliative model of care, provided by specialist nurses. The program provides strategies and advice to support people living with dementia, their families and care providers with a focus on promoting choice and well-being.
The Nightingale Program is currently only funded in South Australia. Dementia Australia is requesting funding to deliver the program across Australia.
Election priority three: Long-term, sustained funding for the award-winning Dementia-Friendly Communities program
John lives with dementia and says the Dementia-Friendly Communities program makes him feel like the community has his back.
“I am a person who is living with dementia and was diagnosed in my 50s. It’s important to me to be able to maintain my dignity, agency and independence whilst I continue meaningful engagement with my community,” John said.
“The members of a Dementia-Friendly Community will have an increased awareness, understanding and empathy for those of us living with dementia.
“This greater knowledge has enhanced my quality of life and provided positive experiences for my partner Glenys and I when we go out and about within our community. We personally feel that the community has our back so to speak, and we know numerous stories indicating support for others as well.
“This program has changed my life and tens of thousands of other Australians. It has given me hope.” Since its inception in 2016, the Dementia-Friendly Communities program has inspired the involvement of 33,000 Dementia Friends, including more than 4,500 people living with dementia, their families and carers. The program team work closely with an increasing number of Dementia Alliances and Dementia-Friendly organisations.
Together they are changing the way people think about dementia by empowering people living with dementia to live with purpose.
Our election strategy
Dementia Australia has been calling on all political parties and candidates to declare commitments to the delivery of quality dementia care in their policy platforms.
At every opportunity we have communicated the need to maintain the momentum and focus on aged care and dementia, especially in relation to aged care workforce issues and dementia education.
We’ve met with key portfolio Ministers and Shadow Ministers. We’ve met with other parties and independents. We’ve written letters to leaders all sides of politics. We’ve led the dementia discussion in the media and in social media.
We have reiterated again and again that aged care is not the same thing as delivering quality dementia care and that all those working in aged care must be appropriately trained to deliver that care.
The first priority is especially pressing. For the sector to deliver quality dementia care as a consistent and integral part of aged care, we must continue to support our workforce, strengthen their knowledge and skills and develop practice leaders and mentors.
The priorities are outlined in Dementia Australia’s Delivering on the Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care.
Dementia Advocates have generously supported our activities and shared their own, very personal reasons why these priorities are important.
Many others have been inspired to act through our Tips for Grassroots Advocacy information available online for anyone to use to support them approaching their local parliamentary members.
We extend our immense gratitude to Isabelle, Vern and John and to all Dementia Advocates who have generously contributed their time and personal experience to raise awareness and increase the understanding about dementia in the community and to all election candidates.
Dementia Australia stands ready to continue this conversation with the elected government.