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Community care can help people with dementia stay at home for longer

Keeping people with dementia at home in the community is one way to manage the ticking time-bomb of rising dementia rates, says Careerforce CEO Ray Lind.

“We believe the community care model is part of the answer to one of the country’s biggest health challenges, not just because of financial advantages, but because it helps keep our elderly happy and safe and home for longer,” Mr Lind says.

“As we’ve seen in the new Economic Impact of Dementia report, dementia is a ticking time-bomb for New Zealand, with numbers set to reach 170,000 by 2050 – a staggering 300 percent increase with an estimated cost of $4.6 billion,” Mr Lind says.

“While we recognise that dementia is a complex condition and the community care model is not appropriate for everyone, strong health and social support services can help those with dementia, their family and whānau to maintain maximum independence and wellbeing.”

“Just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean they need to leave their home and go into residential care – instead, greater focus should be placed on caring for them in our communities.”

The government’s current Framework for Dementia Care highlights the need to boost workforce training, with a strong focus on person-centred care, so the best possible care and support can be given to those living with dementia and their families.

Careerforce, the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the health and wellbeing sectors, works closely with employers across New Zealand to implement workplace training programmes, so their staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognise, understand and support people living with dementia.

Careerforce’s workforce training programmes for aged and community care settings include specialist community care and dementia care programmes, tailored for employees in this sector.

“Caring for someone with dementia can be a very challenging role and one of the things many people say is that they are not sure how to help. In these situations, it’s easy to feel incompetent,” Mr Lind says.

“So, the key focus of our workplace training programmes is to enable staff to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to best recognise, manage and support dementia-related behaviour.”

Counties Manukau Homecare Trust have put 98 percent of their 170-strong team of support workers through a special Careerforce dementia training programme, Open Doors/Open Minds, a collaboration with Alzheimers New Zealand and the ‘Walking in Another’s Shoes’ group.

“As an organisation we are aware of the need for care of dementia clients,” says manager Trudy Biggelaar.

“They found it useful and beneficial for giving safe and best care to our clients, as well as bringing an awareness to their own immediate whānau and extended whānau and friends.”

Mr Lind says specialist dementia training helps staff manage supporting dementia behaviour. “Our training programme teaches them to look for and recognise triggers, to recognise what is occurring and manage challenging behaviour. Once they’ve completed the programme, trainees are so much better equipped and no longer take things personally.”