Putting yourself in the shoes of someone with dementia is at the heart of a new initiative designed to enhance the skills of those caring for the more than 70,000 people living with dementia in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Dementia Foundation (NZDF) is creating educational resource kits known as the Dementia STARs concept - Short Trainings in Awareness and Responsiveness - which will benefit more than 1500 people in New Zealand's dementia workforce including medical, nursing, support workers and educators.
The kits, which come as experts predict the number living with dementia in Aotearoa will more than double in the next 30 years, help carers see through the eyes of dementia patients as they experience everyday life – and are possible following a grant from the CHT Aged Care Fund.
Carriann Hall, chief executive of CHT Healthcare Trust says the kits are designed to deliver quality education sessions for carers and give them the tools and the confidence to support individuals to live well at all stages of their journey with dementia.
"Staff are crying out for more information and resources to keep doing their jobs better," says Dr Matthew Croucher, the chair of NZDF and Psychiatrist Old Age. "So, by supporting trainers to upskill their own teams through (the kits), we know we can reach and resonate with a large workforce continually striving to lift their game."
He says the foundation's purpose of supporting and educating the workforce will be extended significantly through the provision of resources like the Dementia STARs and can easily be integrated into established training programmes.
Eight free, downloadable resource kits make up the Dementia STARs suite which is due to be launched online early next year. The New Zealand-specific resources are based on sound educational principles tailored to the needs of our workforce, and are produced by skilled dementia educators with proven track records.
Each kit will include a facilitator guide for an interactive education session, a PowerPoint presentation with embedded short video segments, a printable infographic to reinforce the key messages, links to further learning resources and a pre-recorded virtual classroom video.
The person-centred approach to caring for a person living with dementia is anchored on four pillars, starting with valuing not only people living with dementia, but also their carers and enabling carers to recognise and be inspired by the important role they play.
The second pillar centres on treating a person with dementia as an individual by looking beyond their medical and risk profiles to discover what is important and meaningful to them as a person.
Seeking to understand a person's perspective on the world by understanding them better is the third pillar, while reframing care tasks as the opportunity for positive social interaction is the fourth.
A leading provider of quality rest home, hospital and dementia care, CHT has nearly 60 years of experience in taking care of older people in communities around the upper North Island and a strong commitment to improving future care for older people.
As a charitable trust, with a focus on purpose rather than profit, CHT established the Aged Care Fund in 2019 to enhance the wellbeing of older people by funding initiatives that drive innovation and improvement in care for New Zealand's older people.
A selected number of grants are made by the fund each year in areas directly relating to the aged care sector including research into the needs of older people, improved access to care and workforce development.
Hall says the opportunity to fund a project with such a tangible opportunity to ignite positive change for a large number of older New Zealanders and their carers is closely aligned with the goal of the fund.
"About 60-70 per cent of people living in aged residential care settings have some form of dementia, yet most of them do not need to be cared for in specialist dementia care settings. So giving carers the knowledge and confidence to take great care of them must go beyond staff in specialist units," she says.
"It's predicted that the population living with dementia in Aotearoa New Zealand living will more than double in thirty years, so now is the time for initiatives like Dementia STARs to drive a step-change in how we care for the unique needs of these individuals."
Face-to-face group training is believed to be the most effective and engaging way to deliver training sessions according to NZDF sector liaison officer, Susan Gee.
"Caring for a person living with dementia can be challenging, so the chance to exchange experiences then learn and collaborate together around how to practically, positively and creatively respond can be a very powerful way to ignite a new culture of care."
Applications are now open for the 2021 CHT Aged Care Fund grant. To apply go to cht.co.nz/agedcarefund-2 before 30 November 2021.