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Dementia ‘flying squads’

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Mobile ‘flying squads’ of clinical experts will soon be on-call nationwide to help aged care homes confronting crisis situations because of the violent or extreme behaviour of residents with dementia.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced $54.5 million will be used to establish Severe Behaviour Response Teams which can be called in on four hours’ notice to help aged care providers trying to cope with residents posing a significant risk to either themselves or others.

The Minister said the initiative was intended to help minimise the number of times aged care home residents with dementia are “unnecessarily” transferred to higher security or acute facilities.

“Like all of us, aged care residents are most comfortable in a familiar environment and this program will provide that helping hand to better manage people in their current community who exhibit severe behaviour because of their dementia,” Ms Ley said.

“This initiative will provide additional support in a crisis situation to residents, who may be hitting out at people around them, and manage their behaviour so they can remain in their familiar aged care home.”

Under the program the teams, to operate between 7am to 7pm seven days a week, will contact the aged care within four hours of receiving a call to discuss interim action, and within 48 hours will hold either a face-to-face or telehealth conference to work on immediate and longer-term care plans.

The support from the teams is in addition to the work done by the existing Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services, and is intended to focus solely on residents that pose a threat to themselves or others, such as hitting out at other patients or staff, breaking furniture or windows, ongoing aggressive behaviour and a history of attempting to leave.

The service, which will cover all Commonwealth-funded residential aged care facilities, will be established and operated by HammondCare, which Ms Ley said had a successful history of providing dementia care to high-need residents.

Under the contract, HammondCare is required to provide the same level of service across the country, regardless of location.

Despite the company’s expertise, the Government has emphasised that the teams will not be a substitute for existing emergency and mental health services.

“As is currently the case, all emergencies will be referred to the appropriate state-based paramedic service, who are responsible for providing an immediate emergency response,” the Health Department said.

More information about the Severe Behaviour Response Teams can be found at: https://www.dss.gov.au/ageing-and-aged-care/older-people-their-families-and-carers/dementia/severe-behaviour-response-teams-information-pack

Dementia research boost

The Federal Government has announced a second round of grants worth $43 million to fund research into the causes, effects, treatment and prevention of dementia.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the grants, shared among 76 researchers, would help keep Australia at the forefront of international efforts to understand and tackle the devastating disease, which currently afflicts about 330,000 Australians.

Ms Ley said the $43 million was in addition to $35 million already committed to dementia research in August, and was jointly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council.

The Shadow Minister for Ageing, Shayne Neumann, said the research funding boost was welcome, but called on the Government to release the results of a review into publicly-funded dementia programs that was due to report in June.

Mr Neumann said that, in addition to funding research, the Government should also be investing more into supporting those currently living with dementia and their carers.

Adrian Rollins