Around the globe, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds. There are currently 14.8 million people worldwide living with dementia.
While the population continuing to age rapidly, international research show that, for people to age positively and well – and prevent the onset of dementia, staying connected with family, friends and community is vital.
The annual Victorian Seniors Festival is a great example of the power of participation. The festival offers a range of great opportunities to stay connected – helping physical and mental health, and social connectedness. And for families and carers with loved ones living with dementia, the festival also offers expert advice with nurses on hand at the Melbourne Town Hall RDNS (Royal District Nursing Service) Healthy Pit Stop from Monday 5-9 October.
RDNS Australian dementia expert, Fleur O’Keefe, reminds us that quality dementia care can still start at home. Fleur is the Senior Clinical Nurse Advisor (Aged Care/Dementia) at the RDNS. She has two Masters Degrees in different aspects of Aged Care and has worked with RDNS, specialising in in-home care for people with dementia, for more than 11 years.
“The wonderful community service RDNS offers enables us to keep up continuity of contact with our clients, so not only do we have the opportunity for very personal care, we are also ideally placed to see what kind of approaches can work for different kinds of people, where it matters most – in their own homes,” she says.
In all the thousands of dementia clients she has looked after, Fleur says that no two cases are identical.
“We might visit someone who can shop but can’t manage their medication, we might see a client who has very few visitors but says they are not lonely while they can look out their front window, we see people who are functioning very well in one area but not in another,” she says. “Each case is so different and has to be respected as such.”
As the role of carers becomes more important in dementia cases, Fleur believes that we all – individuals, partners, children, neighbourhoods and communities – have a part to play.
“Everyone should keep an eye on an older relative or friend, especially if they live on their own. Ask them questions like: How are you feeling? What’s happening in your life? What do you need help with? That way, people are best placed to get help early and have the best chance for best quality of life into the future.”
Fleur explains that the RDNS approach is to ask what people with dementia can do and to make the most of that individual situation.
RDNS places great priority on the implementation of what they call the Active Service Model. Their focus is on key components of capacity building or restorative care to maintain or promote a person’s ability to live as independently as possible; to improve functional independence, quality of life and social participation; a holistic ‘person-centred’ approach to care; and working with people to explore what their goals are to help maximise independence and tailor support accordingly. Dementia is a multi-factorial disease and we need a range of approaches to tackle it. We need to look at preventative measures such as diet, exercise, connectedness where we can, try to get an early diagnosis where possible and help people, as best we can in their own homes, to give them the support and care they need,” she adds.
Research tells us that participation is also important to ageing well. The annual Victorian Seniors Festival offers a range of great opportunities to stay connected and involved by grabbing some friends, participating and having some fun. Now in full swing, the 2015 Victorian Seniors Festival will run right across Victoria for the whole of October with a jam-packed program featuring more than 1300 free or low-cost events, promising something for everyone.
For more information on RDNS services, go to www.rdns.com.au