Dementia Action Week 18-24 September 2023
Act Now for a Dementia-Friendly Future
Imagine being treated differently just because you have been diagnosed with a disease like cancer or diabetes. This is the reality for people living with dementia, their families and carers.
Dementia Australia research shows 81 per cent of those with a loved one living with dementia felt that people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently.
That’s why this Dementia Action Week we’re encouraging everyone to take a few simple actions to create a dementia-friendly future for all Australians.
A dementia-friendly future is a future that is better for everyone in the community.
To sign the Dementia Action Week pledge visit Dementia Action Week.
Caring for a loved one with dementia
The decision to move a loved one living with dementia into aged care can bring with it complex emotions.
Even though you may feel completely confident and have a sense of relief that it’s the right move for their health and wellbeing (and your own), many families grapple with a sense of guilt at making the decision.
We spoke to Larissa Gear, one of Carinity’s experienced Regional Residential Managers and an expert in dementia and aged care, to dispel some of the myths and develop some strategies to help everyone adjust to the change.
One of the best ways to handle the transition process is to plan it out and take control of as much as possible, preferably in advance of a crisis arising.
Caring for a loved one living with dementia can be challenging. As a degenerative disease, it’s progression can often bring with it new and unexpected changes in symptoms and behaviour. For many families, these changes are beyond what they’re able to safely manage at home. In these circumstances, residential aged care communities provide essential care, community and safety, allowing family members to step back from the role as primary carer to simply enjoy their time together.
Larissa is an expert advisor in dementia and aged care, having personally helped countless families with their transition into Carinity aged care and she shares her insight and expert knowledge in making the change as smooth as possible.
Planning Aged Care for People Living With Dementia
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone living with dementia will need residential aged care. However, Larissa suggests it’s important to plan for how your family will manage a decline in health before a crisis occurs. “Dementia effects everyone differently,” says Larissa, “For some families, the best option might be residential aged care. For others, care from family, home care services and regular respite might be enough to allow to them to remain in their home, if that’s what they want to do.”
Carer burnout or carer fatigue is a serious consideration for Larissa, as she regularly sees the impact that the role of a full-time carer can have on the health and wellbeing of the carer. “Being a full-time carer is demanding. Sometimes people can become so burdened in the care role that they’re not caring for themselves, which means they’re not caring well for the other person. Sometimes respite is the difference between them being able to stay at home as it gives their carer a chance to recharge and care for themselves.”
Dementia Support Services
- Dementia Australia
- Dementia Support Australia – 24/7 Phone Support
- Carers Queensland
- Carinity Home Care & Residential Aged Care
Life Stories and Reminiscence
Another aspect that Larissa recommends is preparing as much information about the individual’s life as possible before their health declines. This goes beyond the simple preferences about how they prefer their tea or coffee, but delves much deeper into the life and values of the person. It can also be helpful to share whether they’ve experienced any events in their life that could make aspects of aged care upsetting. Our model of care is designed to support meaningful aging, and developing a deep, personal understanding of each resident is an important element in achieving this.
Life books or photo albums can be a wonderful activity in helping transition to aged care.
Life books or photo albums can be a wonderful activity in helping transition to aged care. “It’s absolutely fantastic to be able to connect with a resident by hearing about their life and looking through their books with them,” says Larissa. The books are more than just a resource – they’re also a powerful portal for family bonding and connectedness. “Sitting together and reminiscing or viewing a photo album can be a really powerful way to connect with someone living with dementia.”
Making the Transition to Aged Care
If residential aged care is the best decision for your family, the next step is preparing for the move itself. How you prepare will depend on your loved one’s own situation. “Everyone’s an individual,” says Larissa, “and the settling in process looks different for everyone. Our team focuses on supporting families to make the move as smooth as possible in whatever way we can.”
One way to help your loved one settle in more easily is to make their new room as homely and comfortable as possible. Everyone feels more secure and at home when they’re surrounded by their treasured possessions, and this is no different in aged care. “One thing that we know helps people settle into their new home is taking the time to personalise their suite as much as possible,” says Larissa.
We encourage everyone to personalise their suite with items that make them smile and feel at ease. Anything from quilt covers, beloved photographs, paintings and artworks, to favourite outfits, books or any other sentimental items that help you feel at home. For valuable items that can easily be misplaced, such as jewellery, having a replica can be a great way to have a sentimental item close by while still having peace of mind.
Visiting Loved Ones Living with Dementia
When your role has become very care focused, a move into aged care can bring an opportunity to enjoy more quality time together. In an aged care community, the care staff become your partners in providing care. While you will still play a critical role in decisions around your loved ones care, we look after the day-to-day care tasks so you can spend your time simply being together, sharing old memories and creating new ones.
Larissa recommends giving each visit a purpose. “If you’ve always gone for a walk together, come for a visit and go for a walk together. It’s important to keep that point of connection.” Games, watching sport or engaging with a pet can also be helpful at giving a visit structure. For many people, ending the visit and leaving can be a challenge. Keeping things brief, with a quick goodbye and distraction from staff can be a good place to start.
“I always recommend calling back after you’ve left to see how Mum or Dad, or whoever you visited, is going,” Larissa recommends. “Particularly as they settle in it can really put your mind at ease and help you work out what works best for them. It’s a partnership, and staff are always eager to work together to make life as easy as possible for the residents.”
This partnership approach to care is shared by everyone at Carinity. For all our residents, but particularly for those living with dementia, we routinely communicate and connect with family members to build a cohesive care team and to know the resident as an individual.
If you’d like to hear more about our approach to care at Carinity, you can get in touch with our team on 1300 109 109 or enquire today.