Evaluation of the support worker model of care


A variety of roles and models of support have been developed and implemented worldwide to assist people and their carers to: adjust to living with memory loss; navigate the health and aged care system; and access services, information and support. Currently, there is a lack of evidence of the efficacy of the support worker roles for people with dementia, their carer’s and family within the Australian context. Therefore we undertook a two phased project that included a systematic review of international and national literature focusing on dementia support worker roles and a qualitative evaluation of dementia support worker type roles currently in operation across Australia. The objectives of this CDPC activity were to:

  • Assess how the support worker role can best be utilised to assist community-dwelling people with dementia and their carers/family;
  • Develop recommendations to inform policy and practice change and provide a framework for further implementation of the support worker models within different organisations such as Primary Health Networks, advocacy organisations, community groups and other partner organisations.

The value of a support worker for people with dementia, their family and carers came out strongly in both phases of the evaluation; the systematic review and qualitative evaluation.

The findings support the continuation and expansion of the dementia support worker role and further exploration of how the role can be incorporated within consumer directed care. In order to continue the provision of the dementia support worker role and to address the current limitations, the following recommendations relevant for service development, research and policy include:

  1. Explore options for increasing access to the dementia support worker role within consumer directed care;
  2. Trial and align the dementia support worker model with Primary Health Networks to encourage early intervention and increase geographic coverage, particularly rural and remote;
  3. Address the issues of accessibility for diverse groups including younger onset dementia, CALD, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and LGBTI communities within existing and future service models;
  4. Address the outcomes of the evaluation and provide opportunities to raise awareness of the dementia support worker services and what they are able to offer;
  5. Undertake a cost effective analysis of dementia support models;
  6. Ensure continuous service improvement for existing services and any new services including collecting feedback from consumers on satisfaction, and areas for improvement;
  7. Investigate the reasons why people with dementia and/or their caring unit fail to seek help, fail to engage with services or withdraw from services as an important service improvement exercise for existing and future services;
  8. Improve the options for emotional, physical and social care for both people with dementia and their carers, to enhance the enablement of people with dementia so that they can live as well as possible and meet the principles of consumer directed care;
  9. Provide adaptable funding structures that allow support across the continuum;
  10. Utilise the framework developed as part of this evaluation as a human resources recruitment, service review and service development tool;
  11. Actively include people with dementia in service development.

Dianne Goeman, Emma Renehan and Susan Koch; Activity 3