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An old man smiling while having a conversation with a woman who is shown from a backside angle

New program engages aged care staff

Tuesday 8 December, 2020

One of DSA's consultant Christina talking and smiling with a resident of an aged care home in Melbourne

Due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on older people, particularly in aged care homes, many care providers prohibited or reduced access to visitors.

This “lockdown” phase, although an appropriate response in some cases, was known to have a significant emotional, psychological, and physical impact on residents, particularly those living with dementia.

Dementia Support Australia’s experience in supporting people with dementia across Australia, where behaviours are impacting their care, places them in a unique position to help ameliorate the strain of lockdown on all residents and care staff.

To provide support to care homes in lockdown in Victoria with positive cases of COVID-19, DSA trialled a model that provided simple resources and strategies that engage and motivate care staff to deliver individualised care of residents.

This new funding from the Australian Government under the COVID-19 Grief and Trauma program will expand on the essential services provided by the current DSA program to deliver a model of support for individual resident’s through tailored engagement tools and plans. It works alongside programs being delivered by Phoenix Australia and Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement. All aged care services and consumers can also continue to access support from Older Person’s Advocacy Network.

Phase one of the program rolls out in Victoria with care homes who were impacted in the second wave of COVID-19 and from 2021 across Australia. Included in the program are dedicated engagement consultants who will spend time on the ground, working with care homes to understand their goals and objectives in creating sustainable and individually tailored engagement opportunities for their residents. We’ll also be providing a range of items to support this engagement – and look forward to sharing more about this project in early 2021.

Here’s a case study from DSA Consultant Christina who spent time on the ground in care homes across Victoria, in the middle of the pandemic.

DSA were contacted to support a residential aged care home in Melbourne experiencing a high risk of COVID-19 transmission between staff and residents. Residents that were unable to understand the need to isolate were increasing the risk of transmission through their movement within the unit.

DSA strategies needed to consider the challenges for staff which included new staff who were required to support whilst existing staff undertook quarantine, communication, disruptions to resident’s routine, unfamiliar environments with residents moving rooms, COVID-19 protocols and more.

DSA provided resources for staff to engage residents in purposeful and meaningful activities in low risk areas of the unit such as the resident’s room or in designated communal areas. Personalised strategies were supported with quick and accessible information for staff, ensuring that strategies could be easily communicated and implemented across multiple care teams. The goal was to build capacity quickly to maintain quality of life for the person living with dementia during these difficult times. It was achieved in partnership with the care homes who worked hard to support their residents.