April 2018

Creating Better Care for our Residents Living with Dementia

We sat down with Daz Smith, Director of Dementia Excellence here at Greengate, to talk about his care approach for our residents living with Dementia. Daz has been with Greengate since December 2017, and in that time we have embraced a variety of changes to our care model and the way we train our village care teams. Here is what Daz had to say:

Our wonderful industry now requires a culture change, a relearning of what has become the norm. Supporting our residents living with Dementia involves so much more than making sure they are fed and showered, and this is something everyone needs to realise. When I say everyone, I refer to anyone who has a role that supports a person living in our aged care homes so they can continue to live their life to the best of their ability. Our team members, along with the friends and family of our residents, must ensure the resident is given choice, enablement and continued involvement in life, regardless of their diagnosis.
One of the first things I did when I started at Greengate was bring our care teams together. I wanted to ensure our village teams have the understanding and permission to walk together in a direction which supports and enables our aged care residents living with Dementia. I encourage our teams to connect with our residents and build their own relationships – in doing so, our team members can truly appreciate what reality is for that resident, while seeing past their diagnosis in order to find their strengths and abilities.
By ensuring our residents’ basic human needs of attachment, comfort, identity, occupation, inclusion, and love are met, it’s more likely that the uniqueness of each resident is respected, valued, heard and acted upon as an individual.
Being a detective and finding out as much as possible about a person’s life history is another great way for the Greengate team to connect with our residents. The exchange of information between our team members regarding past lifestyle choices and life history, gathered from the person in care and their families, can be invaluable. When all involved are aware of our resident’s life history or choices, it can make for a more positive interaction between people and help reduce unmet needs and build relationships. 
By 2050 it is estimated that there will be approximately 1,000,000 people living with Dementia who reside in Australia. This is why it’s important our industry starts bettering its care models now – it’s not a quick fix, and it will take time to reshape our understanding of how to best care for those living with Dementia in our communities. 
People who live with Dementia can feel heightened levels of emotion and will often remember how you have made them feel, rather than what you have said to them. They may feel anxious or frightened at times, have trouble recognising people, or misunderstand what is being said to them. However, feelings will always remain and this is what I teach the teams in our aged care homes. By understanding this, we can engage with our residents living with Dementia in a way which helps stimulate emotions, brings comfort and reaffirms spiritual truths.
Our body language and how we choose to engage with our residents can be our best asset when working alongside a person who is living with, or without, Dementia in our aged care homes. Regardless of the diagnosis and to put it simply, everyone benefits from positive interactions which come from the types of experiences, environments and communications that give us pleasure and purpose.
Daz is a mentor, innovator and leader with over 28 years’ experience in improving the quality of life of those living with Dementia in residential aged care and in the community. He has extensive experience as a teacher through NSW TAFE and is a speaker in the field of leisure, lifestyle and wellbeing. He has led culture change across organisations by embracing a relationship-centred approach. Daz has actively developed community residential programs and has achieved recognition in the Accreditation process, as well as acknowledgement for his high level of activity planning and implementation in regards to people living with Dementia.
If you would like to learn more about how Greengate cares for our residents living with Dementia, or would like to book a tour of one of our Aged Care Homes in Sydney or Brisbane, contact us today on 02 9097 9175 or email us at info@greengate.com.au