Dementia Australia has called for action to ensure appropriate support and care of people living with dementia in residential aged care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe said anyone being deployed and trained to provide care must be trained in the basics of dementia care in addition to infection control.
"Now more than ever, dementia-specific education needs to be extended to hospitals, ambulance, emergency services, and logistics teams," she said.
This call was backed by Ballarat dementia awareness advocate Anne Tudor whose partner Edie Mayhew died aged 69 in June from younger onset dementia.
For someone to come in and look after someone with dementia and have uneducated, ignorant views about dementia is just so wrong, it should not be allowed to happen.Anne Tudor, Ballarat dementia awareness advocate
"My view is that anyone who is interacting with a person who has dementia really does need to be able to understand different types of dementia and how to communicate meaningfully with someone with dementia so they are treated as a human being not as a disease," she said.
"Edie had been in residential care since September 2018 and carers who worked with her have told me that they learnt so much about how to be a better person and so much about dementia from her.
"So the reality is people with dementia can be teachers. They have insights, they have understandings, they have capacities that are often not acknowledged.
"For someone to come in and look after someone with dementia and have uneducated, ignorant views about dementia is just so wrong, it should not be allowed to happen."
Fifty per cent of people living in residential aged care have a diagnosis of dementia and many more are undiagnosed, according to Dementia Australia.
Ms McCabe said people living with dementia were some of the most vulnerable people in care during this pandemic.
"For residents living with dementia a change in routine, unfamiliar faces and the uncertainty about what is going on around them may exacerbate anxiety, as well as other symptoms of dementia," she said.
Dementia Australia has provided the Victoria Aged Care Response Centre with access to training, recourse links and the National Dementia Helpline to assist staff.
"To transfer a resident with dementia from a home into an ambulance who might be resisting, to move a resident to a new room who appears distressed, or deliver daily care or treatment smoothly, efficiently and, most importantly at this time safely, takes expertise," Ms McCabe said.
"Effective communication between the person living with dementia, family carers, their treating doctor, pharmacist and other health and aged care professionals to ensure that the use of chemical and physical restraints is a last resort is essential."
Ms McCabe urged anyone working within the aged care system in Victoria to call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 as questions and concerns arise or visit dementia.org.au for webchat, resources and information.
The Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) is available on on 1800 699 799 for 24 hour support.
Dementia Australia COVID-19 Information and resources can be found at www.dementia.org.au.
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