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East Metropolitan Health Service dementia-friendly plans recognised by Dementia Australia

Monday, 15 July 2019Communities in Action
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe with some EMHS representatives

East Metropolitan Health Service (EMHS) has officially been recognised as a ‘Working Towards Dementia-Friendly Organisation’ by Dementia Australia. EMHS is the first metropolitan health service in Australia to be given this recognition. 

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the determination of the health service to genuinely listen to the feedback from people living with dementia was a stand-out feature when Dementia Australia was considering whether to award this status. 

“East Metropolitan Health Service has set the bar high for other organisations – not just health services - in the way they have allocated resources to creating a more inclusive and accepting environment for people living with dementia who access their services,” Ms McCabe said. 

“Accessing hospital when dealing with an acute condition can be challenging and confusing for anyone but particularly for someone who lives with dementia. 

“There are an estimated 447,000 Australians living with dementia today and, of that number, 41,600 people live in Western Australia. As the prevalence of dementia rises, so too does the need for more dementia-friendly organisations, particularly health services. 

“The way we respond, communicate and interact with a person with dementia has an enormous impact on their day-to-day life and that’s why Dementia Australia is championing Dementia Friends and dementia-friendly organisations across our nation. This is a national program that aims to transform the way our nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia.” 

Some of the positive changes adopted by EMHS include: 

  • focus groups with previous patients who live with dementia, and their carers, to gain insight into first-hand experience of navigating the hospital system; 
  • training in dementia-awareness for both clinical and non-clinical staff, including ‘Forget-me-not’ volunteers and pastoral care workers who work directly with patients who live with dementia; and 
  • pet and music therapy. 

“Making these changes simply made sense”, according to EMHS Chief Executive Elizabeth MacLeod. 

“Our extensive hospital and health service network aims to maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of more than 725,000 Western Australians, and we know that a significant number of the patients admitted to our services have dementia,” Ms MacLeod said. 

“Compared to patients without dementia, those with dementia are twice as likely to experience an adverse event such as falls or pressure ulcers, while in hospital.” 

“Fractures and delirium are also up to three times more likely to occur for someone with dementia.1 ” 

“Being a dementia-friendly health service means we are better able to support people living with dementia access and contribute to their health care experience in a more positive and collaborative way and ensure better outcomes.” 

“But to be truly dementia-friendly means continuing to improve our standard of care on an ongoing basis. Over the coming year we have a plan to standardise signage and further improve our built environment so it is easier for people living with dementia, their families and carers to access our services.” 

“Another focus area is to embed our alert system that helps optimise hydration and nutrition in people living with dementia, and establish visits from the Hospital Museum to support reminiscence and story-telling away from the wards.” 

The term ‘working towards’ recognises that becoming dementia-friendly is an ongoing process requiring continual improvement and feedback from people living with this progressive condition, their families and carers. To reach this status organisations need to demonstrate they have worked with and sought feedback from people living with dementia, their families and carers, and have taken or will take steps to make changes to the built environment, and/or the delivery of services based on that feedback. Each action plan is reviewed by Dementia Australia and a team of advocates who themselves live with the condition. 

The first step towards a dementia-friendly organisation or community is to become a Dementia Friend. A Dementia Friend has completed a short awareness program and understands how their small acts can make a big difference in the lives of people living with dementia. To sign-up and find out more please visit

EMHS incorporates Royal Perth Hospital, Bentley Hospital, Armadale Hospital, Kalamunda Hospital, St John of God Midland Public Hospital (operated under a public private partnership with St John of God Health Care), and population and community health programs.

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Last updated
2 April 2024