BRAIN TRAINING: NoosaCare's Christine Slavin, Cassandra Whadcoat, Tracey Simpson and Danah Wood (centre). The facility are running a unique training program for all staff to help understand dementia at a grassroots level. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa
BRAIN TRAINING: NoosaCare's Christine Slavin, Cassandra Whadcoat, Tracey Simpson and Danah Wood (centre). The facility are running a unique training program for all staff to help understand dementia at a grassroots level. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa

Unique training hoped to ‘ripple’ into community

IN A bid to create a more inclusive and educated front to understanding dementia, one local aged care facility has developed a unique program they hope will inspire a ripple effect into the community.

NoosaCare have been working to train all new and existing staff from the cleaners and groundskeepers to admin and cooks, on how to spot, understand and react to someone living with dementia.

The programs were designed by NoosaCare’s dementia mentor and personal carer Christine Slavin and endorsed by memory support unit clinical care co-ordinator Cassandra Whadcoat and group care manager Monica Egli.

Over time, the team saw a gap in understanding dementia and decided to pool their knowledge and expertise to share with the rest of their staff.

“I go through lots of information associated with people living with dementia, taking away some of the thoughts that everything is disastrous and giving information to people who may or may not know something about dementia,” Ms Slavin said.

In the workshops and presentations Ms Slavin explains how the disease progresses and how staff can use strategies to deal with it should them come across it around the grounds of a NoosaCare facility.

“It gives a broad outline, what dementia is, what dementia isn’t, the differences between ageing and a person living with dementia, so they are given a bit of an insight into what it feels like.”

Admin worker Jenni Bippus said until her training she knew little, if nothing, about the disease.

“It was very educational for me because I have never really had any involvement with dementia at all,” she said.

“The more Christine talked, the more when wanted to know.”

“I even took a few handouts to my parents.”

Ms Bippus acknowledge there was a “stigma” around dementia she hoped would now be broken down.

“You can tell they’ve got dementia, but you don’t really know what to say.”

Ms Slavin said while there is “food for thought” to take similar training into the community their focus is to work from the inside out.

“We call it like the oxygen on an aeroplane, you’ve got to be able to breath before you help other people,” she said.

“I can honestly say I do not think there is another nursing home that has this kind of package available for their staff — from the person picking up the leaves, to the person cooking the dinner, to the people in admin.”

Ms Whadcoat said this also created a sense of “empowerment” for employees.

“Professionally and personally I think it’s important everyone has that sort of education,” Ms Whadcoat said.

“It’s really empowering to be able to help someone who is confused and to be supporting and empathetic.”

“One of their cleaners has become extremely popular within the dementia ward since his training.”

NoosaCare’s WHS officer Tracey Simpson said external training for people in areas of retail and customer survives could also benefit the community.

“I found (training) was empowering for me, not so much in the workplace for me, but in the community this will help me better deal with it if I see it,” Ms Simpson said.

“You might see an older person at the supermarket who is acting aggressive and think they are just grumpy but they could have dementia.”

“You don’t know the full story and the only thing that would help is workplace education.”


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