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Food for thought

Provider launches new trial to help relatives of people living with dementia

A leading not-for-profit provider is helping make mealtimes for families living with a dementia a more positive experience.

Funded by the Federal Government and developed by Benetas, the Happy Eating Pilot Project will target families of Italian and Greek speaking backgrounds who have a family member with moderate dementia living in the western region of Melbourne.

Benetas CEO Sandra Hills said the aim is to help make mealtimes a more enjoyable experience.

“Our bi-lingual carers will receive special training to work with families to introduce strategies to help make eating more enjoyable. These strategies include learning to stimulate appetite for the person with dementia, establishing routines, reducing distractions, simplifying cooking and alleviating mealtime stress in the kitchen.”

Mealtimes play an exceptionally important role in reducing social isolation, which is a major issue facing the ageing population. Food is also important in identifying with culture and reliving memories, said Hills.

Through the project, families will be assisted to understand how their family member with dementia can be more involved in family life, such as meal preparation and cleaning up, which allows them to continue to make a contribution to the household.

The provider said there are over 5000 people over the age of 65 living with dementia in the western region of Melbourne alone. The area is also becoming increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse.

While Benetas case managers currently arrange a vast variety of services for their clients, none are currently in a position to offer this sort of tailored, specialised support, Hills said.

Benetas will trial the project with some of its current clients and families. The project has four key aims in the initial 12-month period: increase understanding of dementia; reduce stigma surrounding dementia; empower those who have dementia and to reduce their social isolation.

“We look forward to working closely with the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and community representatives from Greek and Italian backgrounds to ensure the project is a success,” said Hills.

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