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Continuity of care

Study to improve palliative care for people who have dementia.

Curtin University and partner organisations have launched a research study that brings together health service providers to improve care for people who are dying with dementia.

The Commonwealth funded Communities of Practice (COP) in Dementia Care research study is primarily focused on the continuity of care for people who are dying with dementia. COP members are drawn from diverse health care sectors, including residential aged care, community aged care, respite care, general practice, and hospital settings.

It is believed that this is the first time the COP approach has been used in relation to people who have dementia and are drawing close to death.

Lead Western Australian investigator, Associate Professor Chris Toye, from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), said the study would address the fragmented care that these people often receive.

“When people with dementia have such poor health that they may only have six months or less to live, their care needs may be complex and it can be a confusing and stressful time for these people and their families,” Toye said.

“As disability, frailty and illness increase, service providers must strive to ensure the best possible quality of life for these people.

“Continuity of care is a major factor in ensuring that people who have dementia feel safe and comfortable if they need to transition from home to hospital or care facilities. This study aims to identify ways to enhance such transitions when they need to occur.”

The COP in Dementia Care study is being trialled in both WA and Tasmania and involves Alzheimer’s Australia WA, Alzheimer’s Australia Tasmania, and the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre and Menzies Research Institute as partners.

Toye said the first step COP members in each state were taking was to decide what key issues need to be addressed.

“The WA COP has identified care-related communication and the provision of support for family carers as key issues to address to enhance care and its continuity,” she said.

“COP members are now responsible for driving change within their own organisations related to these issues and will be supported to lead practice enhancement strategies with their own teams.

“This study is unique. We believe that it is the first time the COP approach has been used to address issues related to the care of people who are dying with dementia

“The study will run until mid-2011, and we hope by this time to determine if this new approach is an effective and efficient way to address the many care related issues that arise for these people.”

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