ID: 356 - A new role in aged care: the dementia care support worker
Lea, EJ and Robinson, AL and Doherty, KV, ID: 356 - A new role in aged care: the dementia care support worker, 34th Virtual International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International - Hope in the age of dementia - New science. New knowledge. New solutions, 10-12 December, Online, pp. 339-339. (2020) [Conference Extract]
IntroductionOver half of Australian aged care (nursing) home residents have a dementia diagnosis, like many other
countries. People living with dementia have high care needs in domains of daily living and behavioural
support. It is vital that aged care home staff can meet these complex needs, yet gaps have been found
in staff dementia knowledge. To address this, the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Centre created the
Bachelor of Dementia Care. A 2-year project across three care homes of one Australian aged care
organisation developed and evaluated a new Dementia Care Support Worker role for a care worker
with this degree. The study aims to examine staff perceptions of this role, to produce a model of the
key considerations for its establishment.
Eleven interviews were held toward project end (early 2019) with people in middle-senior management
(e.g. clinical nurse) and other key roles across the three sites, when data saturation was reached. The
semi-structured interview schedule included questions on role usefulness and challenges and how to
best prepare a Bachelor of Dementia Care graduate for this role. Interviews were audio-recorded and
Interviewees raised five key challenges to best support the establishment of the Dementia Care
Support Worker role: 1) Role promotion; 2) Communication - infrastructure, skills, pathways; 3) Working
across multiple sites; 4) Knowledge translation; and 5) Organisational culture. Four main benefits of
the role emerged: 1) New approaches to care for residents with dementia; 2) Increased staff awareness
and knowledge of dementia; 3) Support provided for staff; and 4) Support provided for family.
Interviewees supported role continuation and expansion, recommending six key areas to consider
when establishing the role: 1) Role structure; 2) Communication, teamwork and leadership to effectively
engage with staff and residents; 3) Clarity of scope and management of role; 4) Role promotion; 5)
Knowledge about dementia; and 6) Documentation skills. A model was developed from these themes,
highlighting the need for clear support structures to be in place, including role definition, role promotion
and training, in order to maximise the benefits of the role, which include staff training and education
about dementia, trialling new approaches to care and supporting family.
In the context of the need in residential aged care for improved dementia knowledge and evidencebased practice in dementia care, the Dementia Care Support Worker role can improve staff and family
awareness of dementia and resident care. The study suggests that this role should be modelled in
other care homes, which can be assisted by utilising the developed model as a guide to ensure
adequate support structures are in place.
dementia, education, nursing homes, care workers, professional role, dementia knowledge, qualitative research