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VMCH resident Ann Simpson and Kerrin Curnow do a sensory activity together (VMCH)

An innovative, in-house dementia care training program is seeing positive outcomes for aged care residents living with dementia – and greater understanding from staff. Source: VMCH.

This week is Dementia Action Week aimed to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia, and their carers. 

Almost 68 per cent of residents living in residential aged care across Australia have some form of memory loss or dementia. 

This year’s Dementia Action Week theme is “Act Now for a Dementia-Friendly Future”; an idea that for-purpose aged and disability provider VMCH (Villa Maria Catholic Homes) believes it is already making great strides in.

VMCH aligns its dementia support care with the principles of Montessori, encouraging people to be as independent as possible.

VMCH dementia services specialist Elizabeth Baxter co-designed the organisation’s Knowing Our People training, alongside learning and development consultant Julia Butler. The interactive program – including how dementia affects the brain, problem-solving behaviours of concern, and creating meaningful opportunities through valued roles and activities – is unique in that is it designed by staff, for staff.

“The training is mandatory for all residential aged care staff, from cleaners, hospitality workers, nurses, admin staff and drivers, recognising that each person has a special role to play in facilitating good outcomes for people living with dementia,” Ms Baxter says.

“A key aspect of the training is inviting residents using the Montessori catch-phrase ‘Would you help me?’. This participation from residents empowers them to feel autonomous and engaged in aspects of their lives that may traditionally be taken away from them when they move into a residential setting. This could be anything from cooking, folding clothes, cleaning, or sorting items.

Lifestyle Coordinator Kerrin Curnow is among hundreds of staff who have already completed the training and speaks highly of the outcomes.

“Getting to know [residents’] life stories helped us inform activities that they enjoyed and gave them purpose. Activities that make them feel worthy, wanted, and useful.”


Innovative dementia care training improves lives (VMCH)