Specialist Dementia Care Shows Drastic Behavioural Improvement

on the Wednesday, March 14, 2018

For more than a decade, research into the management of older people living with dementia has been an ongoing subject. A recent focus of this research has been on the design into specialised care for residents living with dementia, creating unique home environments to make them feel comfortable.

Catholic Healthcare’s McQuoin Park have utilised many of the evidence-based design recommendations in their state-of-the-art residential aged care home in the Upper North Shore of NSW.

Since the opening of the new McQuoin Park residence, both carers and nurses have noticed a significant change in some residents living with dementia.

The 127-bed home features a dementia specific unit (DSU) with specially trailed dementia staff available 24-hours a day.

Care Manager Lani Lingatong says that the dementia specific unit has made a “distinct behavioural difference to some of the residents.”

“Our residents have shown signs of feeling settled in their new home,” she says, “There’s clearly increased levels of happiness and even improved social skills since the move.” 

Lani says that one resident in particular has made improvements that are drastically contrast her behaviour upon first moving in. 

Maureen Nichols, who will be celebrating her 79th birthday this week, has been a resident of McQuoin Park for two years – moving into the original home in December 2015. 

Upon moving into the service, Maureen experienced increased levels of anxiety, finding without the comfort of her family combined with sharing a room with a stranger a difficult transition from her home life. 

Whilst Maureen’s anxiety slowly decreased over her time in McQuoin Park, sharing a room with other residents remained an issue for her and family, due to her frequent nighttime disturbances and behavioural issues associated with dementia. 

Since moving into the new home, however, Maureen has relished having her own room so much that she “hardly wants to leave”, describes daughter Anne. 

“Mum really enjoys being in her own space now, it has everything she needs,” says Anne. 

The McQuoin Park home ensures each resident has their own privacy, aided with a spacious bedroom complete with an ensuite, television, couch and a balcony overlooking the gorgeous greenery of the Upper North Shore – an element that many residents in the area would be envious of. 

The dementia-specific unit of McQuoin Park also includes these elements, with additional design features like doors opening outwards rather than inwards; a circular, closed garden space for residents; and memory boxes – a decorative addition to the opening of residents’ rooms that spark memories of their earlier lives. 

“Dementia-specific care certainly makes a difference to our residents who are living with the condition,” says Lani. “From what we have learnt about dementia over time, we understand that these residents need a tailored kind of care that allows them to continue living the best life possible.” 

In addition to specific design features, the dementia unit of McQuoin Park employs carers and Recreational Activities Officers (RAO) with greater experience and training in caring for those living with dementia. 

Lani says dementia-specific activities include listening to classical music, live music performances, art therapy and other gentle activities that are proven not to ‘overstimulate’ residents. 

“The residents, and Maureen in particular, really enjoy listening to the live music. It’s very engaging for them. Music is one of those primal senses that speaks to people even when experiencing cognitive decline.”  

As well as music, Maureen also enjoys sitting in the DSU courtyard, where she can enjoy the benefits of the sunshine while close to her carers and other residents. 

Lani says the transition into the new home has been beneficial for not only residents, but staff and families as well. 

“Maureen’s family feel significantly more comfortable with her level of care in a space we can offer her the best quality of life possible,” says Lani. “You can have really great care in aged care, but the space and environment does make a difference. We’re lucky that here, we have the best of both.” 

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