‘If not medicines, then what?’ is a strong focus of the new ‘train the trainer’ program by NPS MedicineWise to support nurses and pharmacists caring for people with dementia in residential aged care facilities.
The over-reliance on antipsychotics and benzodiazepines as ‘chemical restraints’ in the management of dementia in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) has been a focus of the current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. As part of a broader health professional and consumer educational program by NPS MedicineWise on caring for people with dementia, NPS MedicineWise is providing support for health professionals, offering training for nurse and pharmacist ‘champions’ in 1,000 RACFs on best practice, person-centred care for people with dementia.
“Up to 90% of people with dementia will experience changed behaviours such as aggression or agitation at some point during the course of their illness,” says Dr Anna Samecki, medical advisor at NPS MedicineWise and GP.
“Many of these patients may be prescribed antipsychotics or benzodiazepines. While these may be useful in some situations, they have serious side effects and have an impact on the person’s quality of life. Non-pharmacological strategies are first-line and should be continued alongside any medication as part of the person-centred approach,” she says.
For the NPS MedicineWise ‘train the trainer’ program, an RACF nominates two nurse champions and a pharmacist to receive 8 hours of online and/or face-to-face training and 6 months support while training others in the facility and improving the care of people with dementia.
The program culminates in a regional meeting when the nurse champions meet to showcase what they have done and share best practice initiatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges in the aged care space, with people needing to think how to best deliver quality care when things are not normal,” says Dr Samecki.
“A high staff turnover makes it especially challenging to maintain a culture of person-centred care. Nurse champions and pharmacists in RACFs, trained to train new staff, are important to ensure the highest level of care for people with dementia on an ongoing basis,” she says.
The NPS MedicineWise ‘train the trainer’ program is currently underway with further RACF enrolments being accepted. Participation in the program is free of charge. For more information, see the NPS MedicineWise website.
A new episode of the NPS MedicineWise podcast for health professionals also features Dr Anna Samecki speaking with program lead Kara Joyce on Dementia and changed behaviours: a person-centred approach.