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Federal funding to help create dementia friendly rural communities

Researchers from La Trobe University’s Wodonga-based John Richards Initiative have been awarded $1.7 million in Federal Government funding to implement their Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Community program

$1.7 million in Federal Government funding for a Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Community program (Source:Shutterstock)
$1.7 million in Federal Government funding for a Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Community program (Source:Shutterstock)

The project will run in a number of rural communities within Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, involving carers, volunteers and aged care staff from each community along the way.

John Richards Initiative director, Associate Professor Irene Blackberry says the primary aim of the project is to support those who care for people with dementia and their rural communities.

“There are an estimated 200,000 informal carers of people with dementia in Australia – including many who live in rural communities where they have less access to support services,” Associate Professor Blackberry says.

“By creating dementia friendly rural communities we can better support carers, local volunteers and staff and potentially reduce the need for more expensive and disruptive residential care or multiple acute care admission.

“Through these regions we hope to develop a toolkit that can be used by other areas to establish virtual dementia friendly rural communities.”

The rural communities set to take part in the initiative include Edenhope, Warracknabeal, Heathcote, Kilmore, Robinvale, Kooweerup and Mansfield - in Victoria, Orange in New South Wales, and the Riverland and Victor Harbor in South Australia.

Acting Chief Executive Officer for Alzheimer’s Australia, Rajiv Chand says that people living in rural areas like these Australian towns generally feel isolated and also says that service options are ‘limited’.

“People living with dementia, their families and carers living in rural Australia have less access to dementia specific supports and services,” he says.

“Projects such as this will provide opportunities for carers to connect with others and also enable them to receive much needed information and support.”

He adds that such projects go some way towards creating a dementia friendly community where people living with dementia are supported to live as valued and contributing members of society.

“Dementia supports and services are vital to enable people living with dementia to live within their own home and community as contributing members of society,” Mr Chand says.

“For carers, the support and services reduce the pressures that come with providing care and allow opportunities for them to take a break from their caring role.”

The $1.7 million funding for the La Trobe University aged care research centre comes as part of the recent $34 million funding announcement for 42 projects Australia-wide by the Department of Health to support innovation in dementia care and other aged care services

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