Dementia Care in Hospitals

Hospitals can be a dangerous place for people with dementia

Dementia Australia is supporting a campaign that aims to make hospitals safer and less confusing places for people with dementia.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s (ACSQHC) Caring for Cognitive Impairment Campaign recognises that people with dementia or delirium (common conditions of cognitive impairment) are at significantly higher risk of preventable adverse events such as falls, pressure injuries, longer stays and even death, while in hospital. 

Dementia Australia CEO, Carol Bennett said evidence showed hospitals could be a dangerous place for people with dementia.

“Cognitive impairment is often not detected or it is misdiagnosed. We know that 30-40% of cases of delirium in hospitals can be prevented,” Ms Bennett said. 

Cognitive Impairment

“We welcome the Commission’s leadership in this important area, calling for action to unite everyone who cares for people with cognitive impairment, from doctors and nurses, to carers and families to get involved and do what they can to improve the prevention, recognition and treatment of delirium and to reduce the risk of harm for people with dementia in hospitals. 

“With an estimated 353,800 Australians currently living with dementia in Australia, more and more of our ageing population requiring hospitalisation will have dementia. This increasing number of vulnerable people need to be supported by improving the quality of hospital care,” Ms Bennett said.
Dementia Australia is delighted that the Commission is addressing quality of care through the development of Cognitive Impairment Standards which will be part of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards, against which hospitals will be assessed.

Imelda Gilmore who cares for her husband Graham who is living with dementia, also welcomed the initiative.

“The campaign is a very important step in educating hospital staff to be aware that the carer who accompanies the patient is their greatest asset, to ensure the care that clinical staff provide will achieve the best result.” Mrs Gilmore said.

A website has been set-up as part of the campaign, where people are able to sign-up and support the campaign. There are tailored practical action lists, videos, access to webinars and an online community to share tips and stories. You can access the campaign website at    

Dementia Care in Hospitals Program

There are a number of great initiatives underway around Australia to assist with reducing the risk to people with dementia or delirium in hospitals.

Dementia Care in HospitalsThe Dementia Care in Hospitals Program (DCHP) developed at Ballarat Health Services aims to improve awareness and communication with people with dementia and their families, to ensure they get the appropriate care in hospital.

The program involves a targeted training program for hospital staff, linked to a visual bedside alert called a Cognitive Impairment Indicator (CII). The objective of the education is to ensure that when a CII is displayed, all staff respond more appropriately, supporting more person-centred and responsive care to the person with cognitive impairment. The program also reinforces the importance of working with carers as partners in care. Dementia Care in Hospitals is a whole of hospital approach. It aims to ensure both clinical and non-clinical staff know how to respond when they interact with a patient who has cognitive impairment.

The DCHP model has been implemented in 22 hospitals in Victoria and is now being implemented in four lead hospitals in other States and Territories:

  • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in South Australia as part of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network
  • The Canberra Hospital in the Australian Capital Territory
  • The Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia
  • The Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania
  • Dementia Australia supports the CII being adopted as a national identifier to support better care for people with cognitive impairment and would ideally like to see an integrated program rolled-out nationally.

“The symbol and the education that comes with it is working to create a culture shift in hospitals, where this program has been trialled and is making a positive difference to the delivery of care for people with a cognitive impairment,” Ms Bennett said.

“Just like visual and hearing impairment symbols have become common place, a nationally recognised CII will help to ensure cognitive impairment is not missed and the considerable challenges that people with dementia face when in hospital will be reduced.