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Specialised support for managing severe dementia behaviours

Last Updated at September 15th 2021
Dementia can be a difficult condition to manage when caring for the people we love as it is. But when behaviours as a result of dementia become so challenging that providing care is becoming difficult to provide, then it may be time to look for outside help with managing those behaviours.

Key points:

  • The Government has funded dementia interventions for severe symptoms of dementia

  • Specialist teams can assess a person with dementia and look for what is triggering their behaviours

  • Most home care and aged care providers will know how to manage challenging behaviours from people with dementia

Three older people engaging in an activity with a younger carer.
The Federal Government has services to assist carers and families of people with dementia who present challenging behaviours. [Source: Shutterstock]

The Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) and the Severe Behaviour Response Team (SBRT) were created by the Federal Government to assist carers and families of older people with dementia who are presenting challenging behaviours.

DBMAS and SBRT both put together strategies to ensure care is being delivered correctly to a person with dementia.

DBMAS and SBRT also give assistance to aged care providers by providing education and information to staff on how to deal with difficult dementia behaviours.

What does DBMAS do?

A DBMAS team is generally made up with a range of health care professionals such as registered nurses, social workers, psychologists, geriatricians and other relevant experts, who provide a free service to help carers and families overcome dementia behavioural challenges.

This can be provided in a number of ways, including:

  • An assessment that encompasses the person with dementia, their carer, and current supports

  • Care planning and case management

  • Referrals to case managers

  • Clinical based support and advice

  • Education and teaching sessions with aged care providers

  • Aged care provider support through mentoring and supervision

  • Provision of dementia research, information and practices

  • Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) appropriate information and access to translating and interpreting services

  • Behavioural consultants for CALD people

  • Special needs groups focussed information, advice and support

  • Further referrals in more serious dementia cases to the Severe Behaviour Response Teams

The DBMAS team investigates how a person with dementia reacts and what may cause them to react. Triggers for people with dementia can include their surrounding environment, social interactions, reactions to complex medical issues, or external stimuli.

Since dementia can be experienced so differently from person to person, different things can trigger people in different ways.

DBMAS teams are searching for what that trigger is and what strategies can be put in place to reduce or prevent these adverse reactions.

Managing severe behaviours

Another initiative is the Severe Behavioural Response Team (SBRT), which can support Government funded aged care providers who need assistance with addressing the needs of residents with dementia displaying aggressive or violent behaviour.

Each team includes clinical health professionals to assist in managing severe psychological or behavioural reactions. The team includes nurses, allied health professionals and dementia specialists.

Usually, if a resident of aged care is becoming aggressive or having severe psychological issues relating to their dementia, an aged care provider will request the SBRT to access the person.

The team will figure out what is causing the behavioural responses and work with aged care staff until they know how to manage the situation.

SBRT will also create an appropriate care plan for the person with dementia to help them live comfortably in their aged care home.

How to get help?

DBMAS and SBRT are funded by the Federal Government and administered by a national provider, Dementia Support Australia (DSA).

Contacting DSA on 1800 699 799 or by emailing, is the best way to begin the process to access DBMAS.

During a phone call with DSA, a consultant will ask a range of questions to assess your current situation. You can also expect a phone call within two days of an email inquiry. Face to face assessments are usually done within seven days of contacting DSA.

If you require urgent assistance, DSA will be able to get a dementia consultant to do an assessment in person within 48 hours.

SBRT assistance is organised by the aged care provider on your behalf, as they are usually the first to recognise problem behaviour.

The great thing about DBMAS and SBRT is that they support the person with dementia and their family until a successful outcome is reached. DSA believes it takes an average of 12 weeks to reach a positive conclusion.

What other help is out there?

There are a number of other organisations that provide information and support for people living with dementia and their family.

A good support and information organisation to utilise would be Dementia Australia. As the biggest peak body for dementia in Australia, they provide a huge amount of support and assistance to people with dementia and their carers and families. You can call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

For a person living with dementia, the Dementia Alliance International provides peer-to-peer support groups. These virtual support groups bring together people with dementia in online video conferences to share their experiences.

If you are under the age of 65 and have dementia, you may be able to access funding and support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For people with dementia over the age of 65, you will be able to access Government funded home care services or aged care services and most providers have interventions and programs in place to assist with different levels of dementia.

Similarly, aged care facility providers can provide care to people with dementia. Some facilities have specific dementia wards, units or services to cater for more severe cases of dementia.

It's important to know you are not alone and there are supports out there to help you understand and manage challenging dementia behaviours.

How have you or your family dealt with challenging dementia behaviours? Tell us in the comments below.

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Dementia behaviour changes and challenges

The link between dementia and depression

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