Rebecca Hogan, Operations Manager – Virtual Dementia Tour™ at Churches of Christ in Queensland (CofCQ), discusses the need for greater empathy and connection amongst aged care workers and how we can start to achieve it.
Current certifications offered in the aged care industry have a strong focus on the functional aspects of care but neglect the development of core interpersonal skills required to deliver person-centred care with empathy and emotional connection.
“We recognise the wonderful work that aged care staff do, and we also recognise that to address the skills shortage and deliver on industry demands, we need to offer staff practical tools and support to develop higher levels of emotional intelligence” Ms Hogan said.
CofCQ are offering the opportunity to “walk in the shoes of a person living with dementia” through experiential training – the Virtual Dementia Tour™.
“The VDT immerses participants in a multi-sensory experience that allows a head to heart connection, empowering staff to develop self-management strategies to effectively deliver empathetic person-centred practice” Ms Hogan said.
It will come as no surprise to readers that increases in the number and proportion of older Australians over the last decade have created growing demand for a skilled and dedicated workforce in residential and community age care. The success of the aged care workforce will in no small part be determined by the ability to provide appropriate care for the estimated 447,115 Australians currently living with dementia, expected to rise to over 1.07 million by 2058 (1).
Dementia has a significant impact on the health of our nation with 52% of Australians in residential aged care living with dementia (1). Dementia is the second leading cause of death overall and the leading cause of death among women in Australia (2). Furthermore, dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older) and the third leading cause of disability burden overall .
“The priority for CofCQ is to collaborate and continue progressing innovative care solutions that support older Australians receiving care to be treated with respect and dignity” Ms Hogan said.
Since officially launching in late 2018, the VDT has been delivered to over 1,600 external participants from a range of professional disciplines.
“While aged care staff are a significant priority, we have delivered the VDT to staff from various sectors including; health/hospital, education, public service and building/architectural firms.“
Ms Hogan continued, “We have had an overwhelming positive response from building and architectural firms that are responsible for design & construction of new aged care facilities”.
“Architects and designers who have participated in the VDT have reported a much better understanding of how design choices can positively impact the lives of residents living with dementia”.
VDT™ deliveries have taken place in areas extensively throughout South East Queensland as well as in North Queensland, Sydney, Canberra and Perth.
“That is just the start” Ms Hogan commented, “We are licensed to deliver the VDT throughout Australia and we are committed to driving positive change in the industry. Our training is 100% mobile, so we can deliver to organisations onsite providing an authentic experience for staff”.
When asked about what strategies participants felt could be used in their organisation to reduce or better manage instances of “responsive behaviours” (expressions of unmet need) the most common responses were: –
John Quinn, dementia advocate and a Person living with younger onset dementia said, “The Virtual Dementia Tour highlights the fact that dementia can present as a number of multi-sensory challenges and is not only about memory. Participating in the tour not only increases awareness, it also has the capacity to promote greater empathy and sensitivity towards people living with dementia. Ultimately, the VDT™ has the potential to up skill those who attend and change the policies and practises of those who work in the area of dementia. These changes will translate into enhanced well-being and a better quality of life for those living with dementia.”
In 2019, there are an estimated 1.5 million Australians involved in the care of someone living with dementia (4).
“While professional care staff play a significant role, there are also many friends, family and loved ones in the community who are providing support. Collaboratively we can change how we engage, communicate and support people living with dementia and revolutionise our societies understanding on dementia because people want to be care about not cared for”. Ms Hogan said.
She continued “It is through knowledge, understanding and awareness that we can achieve the best outcomes for all people living with dementia. With the number of Australian’s living with dementia expected to rise to over 1 million by 2058, this is something we simply can’t ignore”.
“Dementia affects not only the person living with it, but their family and community. If you aren’t impacted now by dementia, you will be”.
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