Rural Northwest Health outlines dementia care initiatives to Senate inquiry

RURAL Northwest Health outlined its ground-breaking dementia care initiatives to a Senate inquiry on Thursday.

The inquiry is investigating the care and management of Australians living with dementia.

Three Senators and four support staff visited Warracknabeal as part of the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s inquiry. It was the inquiry’s first rural visit.

Rural Northwest Health chief executive Catherine Morley said the group toured Wattle and Heath units, spoke with her and staff, and met relatives of residents.

She said the committee learnt about the services Rural Northwest Health provided.

“We had the opportunity to talk to them about how we can deliver care effectively,” she said.

“The changes we have introduced have made a difference.”

Ms Morley said the Senators and support staff complimented Rural Northwest Health’s operation.

She said they had already toured sites in Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart but the Warracknabeal hearing was their first rural visit.

The visit occurred after Alzheimers Australia chief executive Glenn Rees referenced Rural Northwest Health in a letter he submitted to the inquiry.

Ms Morley thanked Mr Rees for the recognition.

Ms Morley said Rural Northwest Health staff and the Senators discussed the aged care funding model and changes that could be implemented.

She said it was important to focus not only on clinical outcomes but also on quality of life.

“There are 44 outcomes of accreditation and only about three focus on quality of life,” she said.

She said ways to improve residents’ quality of life included further funding or making deliverers accountable.

“Fund innovation and support people to be creative and innovative,” she said.

Rural Northwest Health’s innovation was on show during the visit.

Ms Morley said extra funding had allowed the health care group to provide training for all staff on how to work with dementia residents.

The training taught staff new ways of relating to the residents.

“That’s resulted in a whole different culture,” she said.

“We’ve got residents making beds and ironing and doing Men’s Shed stuff, instead of getting up and sitting in a chair, bored and listless.”

Ms Morley said she would love to see a similar change made in other aged care centres.

She said many people dreaded the idea of ending up in aged care because they were ‘soulless’ places.

“These people have a reason and a purpose to get out of bed in the morning,” she said.

“Residential care is a lonely place to spend your last few days.”

Ms Morley said Rural Northwest Health aimed to ensure residents had something to love, something to look forward to and something to do.

“Our residents are looking forward to the Christmas party and most have something to love, whether it’s a cat or a relative,” she said.

She said the relatives thanked the staff and provided valuable feedback.

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