Two-and-a-half years after Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) launched its Walking in Another's Shoes dementia programme, close to 50 caregivers and diversional therapists and seven registered nurses having completed the course.

Walking in Another's Shoes is designed to help staff working in aged care facilities understand what it's like to live with dementia and how to better understand those with the condition.

The programme was developed at the Canterbury DHB and had been well received since it was introduced by WDHB.

Olive Redfern, WDHB dementia educator, said the training provides staff with a greater understanding of the role they play in the move towards more "person-centred care" for people with dementia.


"It's a model of care that helps rest home staff, friends, family members and acquaintances have a more positive view of the condition and the care provided," Ms Redfern says.

"What makes Walking in Another's Shoes special is that in addition to teaching rest home staff to view challenging behaviour as a communication of un-met needs, it also has a strong focus on caring for the carer.

"Staff who complete the training talk about feeling they're doing a better job and the trainers talk about how much they appreciate the measures that are available to gauge the programme's effectiveness."

The eight-month programme includes a monthly workshop, individual coaching sessions for each student and guest speakers.

Ms Redfern said while Walking in Another's Shoes complements other aged care training programmes, it's different in the way it sees the dementia educator working alongside the staff member and the person with dementia.

"Two-and-a-half years on I feel we really are seeing a new understanding about dementia. There's certainly an appreciation for the need to have person-centred care to enhance the lives of people living with the condition and for programmes such as this to support the effort to remove the stigmatisation around dementia.

"I'm continually impressed by the people who work in aged care. Their passion and dedication is admirable so it's wonderful to have the Walking in Another's Shoes programme to support their efforts," Ms Redfern said.