Get more from your money with up to 5.00% p.a. interest

with a National Seniors Term Deposit account

Residential care may benefit dementia patients

Australian researchers have compared hospital re-admissions of patients in aged care homes with those in the general community.

  • Health
  • Read Time: 5 mins

Australians living with dementia who move into residential aged care after a hospital stay are less likely to be readmitted to hospital within one year than those who return to living in the community.

In a new report, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) explored how people with dementia transitioned to residential aged care after hospital and their subsequent use of health services following the hospitalisation.

It’s hoped the study will contribute to improvements in the health and aged care systems and policies to better meet the needs of Australians with dementia.

Around four in ten (38%) of dementia patients who entered residential aged care after being hospitalised were readmitted to hospital within 12 months – a substantially lower rate than those who continued living in the community (62%).

They were also less likely to present at an emergency department (50% compared with 63%).

“Dementia is a significant and growing health and aged care issue in Australia that has a substantial impact on the health and quality of life of people with the condition, as well as their family and friends,” AIHW spokesperson Louise Gates said.

“The care needs of people living with dementia increase as their dementia progresses, which often results in people living with dementia moving into residential aged care to receive ongoing care or changing facilities as care needs change.”

In a single year, 79,000 people aged 65-plus who have dementia were hospitalised for any reason, including their dementia. Of these people, 62% (or 49,000 people) were living in the community prior to their hospitalisation, while the remainder lived in residential aged care.

Nearly one in four (23%) of those people who lived in the community prior to their hospitalisation moved to residential aged care within one week of leaving hospital. This increased to 33% at three months and 37% at 12 months after leaving hospital.

The 2021 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended better integration between health and aged care systems to improve outcomes for older Australians and structural changes in data capture to allow the interaction between the two systems to be monitored.

As residential aged care plays an increasingly important role in caring for people with dementia, peak body Dementia Australia (DA) is calling for improved training of aged care home staff.

DA says “Every single person who works in the aged care system – from managers, nurses and personal care workers to outdoor maintenance and housekeeping – plays a crucial role in ensuring those they care for are treated with respect and dignity and have the quality of life they choose.

“After all, if we can get it right for dementia, we can get it right for everyone.”

DA has provided these tips to aged care employees to enhance the quality of their care: 

Get to know the person you are caring for 

One way to do this is by using the Sunflower Tool, which is a chart that can be hung up and contains important information about the likes, dislikes, and hobbies of the person.

Understand that behaviour is communication

Dementia affects people in different ways and changes in communication are common. The person may find it hard to express themselves clearly or to understand what others say. When you notice a change in the behaviour of someone living with dementia, the first thing to ask yourself is “What is this person trying to tell me”, not “Is this a symptom of their dementia?”.

For example, the behaviour may be telling you that the person is in pain and needs treatment.

Slow down

It’s important to give people living with dementia time to speak and respond. Dementia impacts the ability to think quickly, so it is important to leave enough time for the person to respond to any questions.

It may useful to speak at a slower pace and leave pauses between one topic and the next to give the person adequate time to respond.

Technology solutions

DA offers these technology solutions to assist aged care employees.

  • Ask Annie is an app that offers short, self-paced learning modules to help care workers refresh their skills and learn tips and tools to provide better care to people living with dementia. Ask Annie applies a person-centred approach which is central to quality dementia care. Users learn how to put the individual and their needs at the forefront of every interaction and have respectful communication. The app can be downloaded for free along with access to five free modules. 

  • Talk with Ted is an award-winning immersive experience that uses artificial intelligence and virtual reality to provide a simulation of a typical communication experience between a care worker and someone living with dementia. It is a safe and effective way to practise communication skills. 

To find out more about Ask Annie and Talk with Ted, visit theCentre for Dementia Learning website or call 1300 DEMENTIA (1300 336 368). 

Related reading: AIHW, Scimex, Dementia Australia 

Sign up to the Connect Newsletter

We've got your back

With National Seniors, your voice is valued. Discover how we campaign for change on your behalf.

Learn more