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New response team to reduce symptoms of dementia

Activities from childhood and hobbies of the past are all at the heart of a new program taking to the streets of New South Wales from this week in a bid to quell the impacts of dementia without the use of medication.

The launch of the DART Program was held on 6 November 2017 (Source: Anglican Care)
The launch of the DART Program was held on 6 November 2017 (Source: Anglican Care)

Established 18 months ago off the back of an existing initiative, the Direct Action Response Team (DART) program provides individual care by building knowledge of each participant's health status, environment, past experiences, interests and family and then, from the provided information, offers a range of equipment and activities.

Anglican Care Marketing Manager Kylie Jacques says as part of the ongoing support the program aims to offer, those who experience an escalation of their dementia symptoms will receive a visit to their home or Anglican Care run aged care facility.

“The program works in conjunction with our equipment hiring van and is all about helping those with dementia and their carers,” she explains.

“By being informed on each patient, their history, interests and experiences, we tap into their past hobbies using things found in the van to assist them non pharmacologically.

“We are working with families in developing individual knowledge of past experiences, interests, needs and when symptoms escalate, we build on the knowledge and alleviate symptoms without drugs.

“It’s about offering a therapy based strategy rather than using medications.”

Currently in the pilot phase, the Anglican Care team hope to have some results of the program early in 2018.

“We are in the fairly early stages and are currently working with 40 families from our aged care homes and in the community,” Ms Jacques says.

“We are working on evaluating the program and how effective it is and are hoping to know the outcomes in February/March next year.”

So far, Ms Jacques says the feedback from families involved is positive with DART mentoring to decrease symptoms such as anxiety, depression, wondering, aggression and trouble sleeping.

“Our lifestyle coordinator and clinical practitioners talk to the family of the person living with dementia and use their input to get a strategy going - like increased exercise or participating in an activity that enables them to reminisce,” she says.

“So far it’s been really positive responses from family members who are really thankful that we are taking the time to get a strong picture of the person and implementing a strategy given their lives and past experiences.

We are just hoping to improve the quality of life for residents, consumers and family by trialling this method before going further and seeking the support of a clinician, unless it’s needed.”

Currently the team work via face to face meetings, phone calls or Skype and service the Central Coast, Hunter region and Mid Coast region of New South Wales.

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