Partnership to transform dementia care in residential aged care

23 February 2022
Improving the lives of people living with dementia
A partnership project led by the University of Sydney has received funding from the Australian Government to improve the independence, health and wellbeing of people living with dementia in residential aged care.

The project will see the University work with dementia and aged-care industry leaders to promote the implementation of person-centred reablement support for people living with dementia in care. It has been awarded $1.2million under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project scheme, with co-contribution from partners bringing the project total to over $3million.

Older person gardening

Reablement programs focus on the individual and involve setting goals and strategies to help people maintain or improve their independence and function. This includes the ability to perform everyday tasks or to do the things they enjoy.

Chief Investigator Professor Yun-Hee Jeon said historically people with dementia were deemed unsuitable for reablement or rehabilitation programs because of the progressive nature of the condition. However, growing evidence shows the benefits of such programs for people living with dementia in the community, helping them maintain independence for as long as possible. This new project is a culmination of her work to bring reablement and rehabilitation in dementia care to the fore in the past 10 years nationally and internationally.

“Currently 52 percent of residents in aged care homes in Australia have a diagnosis of dementia, with an additional 20 to 30 percent with some form of cognitive impairment,” said Professor Jeon, Susan and Isaac Wakil Professor of Healthy Ageing in the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Professor Yun-Hee Jeon

Professor Yun-Hee Jeon

“Over the next five years, we will work with our partners and people with dementia and their carers to co-design, implement and assess the effectiveness of reablement programs with the ultimate goal to disseminate a sustainable reablement model for residential aged care.”

“This is an important priority as we know these programs can make a significant and meaningful difference in people’s lives and are very much in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

Project partners contributing in-kind and financial support include Dementia Australia and Leading Age Services Australia, and aged-care service providers HammondCare, Calvary, Whiddon and Bolton Clarke.

“The significant commitment of our partners is a testament to their dedication and belief in the power of dementia reablement programs,” said Professor Jeon.

The multidisciplinary research team comprises leading experts in nursing, speech pathology, physiotherapy, neuropsychology, occupational therapy, dietetics, health economics, geriatric medicine, and policy development from the University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, Monash University and The University of Queensland.

When announcing the successful projects Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said by partnering researchers with organisations and experts in the field, we can work together to achieve better health outcomes for Australians now and into the future.

“Australia continues to be at the forefront of medical research and these projects have the potential to increase not only our understanding of diseases, but to also revolutionise their treatment,” Minister Hunt said.

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