There are an estimated 472,000 Australians living with dementia, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates there are between 134,900 and 337,200 informal carers of people living with dementia in 2021.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics study in 2018 found that primary carers of people living with dementia experience physical or emotional impacts (3 in 4), feel weary (2 in 5) and frequently feel worried or depressed (1 in 3).
In most cases, informal carers have no formal training or qualifications in dementia care, and poor understanding of how to care for themselves, while focusing on caring for a loved one.
Caring for the carers
Dementia Australia developed the Dementia Carer Wellbeing Program to fil this gap. A one-day group workshop, it is designed to empower carers of people living with dementia, with strategies that support their health and wellbeing.
The program uses evidence-based techniques and includes information to help them better understand dementia and its impacts on wellbeing, as well as how to access appropriate support services when needed.
A key aim of the program is to help carers realise the impacts of their caring experience on their own personal health.
Workshop participants are offered a follow-up individual support session four weeks later, to encourage continued self-care, review progress towards individual goals, and link them with complementary supports and services as required.
The program was funded by NSW Health and launched as a pilot in 2019. Since then, hundreds of carers have benefited across regional and metropolitan New South Wales and over Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Due to its success, it has now been expanded nationally.
Supporting ageing and health services into the future
With our population getting older, it is estimated there will be 1.1 million Australians living with dementia by 2058. This means the number of people caring for them will also increase significantly, and those people will need to be supported to maintain their own health and wellbeing, in order to reduce unnecessary burden on the health system.
A spin-off of the program is that carers often develop their own support network among the participants of a workshop, and these networks become a vital extension of our broader healthcare system across Australia.
The Dementia Australia team are now looking to develop the program for other groups impacted by dementia, in addition to carers.
Therefore, the Dementia Carer Wellbeing Program is a critical service not just for today’s carers, but also to support healthcare services into the future.
A winning initiative
Dementia Australia was recognised for their Dementia Carer Wellbeing Program as the winner of the Increasing Access to Care and Services award in the 2021 innovAGEING National Awards.