New dementia funding helps carers to continue working

Alzheimer’s Queensland has recently received $2.5m in dementia funding from the Queensland government, to provide respite services in the Ipswich/West Moreton region for current and new clients. This is part of a $20m funding allocation by the government across the state for the next three years. To tell us more, we sat down with Brooke Suess, our State Manager and Caylie Field, Community Services Manager of our Ipswich Multi Service Centre.


Who can benefit from this funding?

“This funding supports people aged under 65 and over 65, where there’s a diagnosis of dementia or other progressive neurological condition such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, MS or MMD,” explains Caylie.   


“It enables carers to continue work or work-like activities (like studying or volunteer work), by being able to provide a more flexible respite option,” she adds. So that carers can get to their workplace on time, “we can go into a client’s house, help get them up in the morning, get dressed, have their breakfast, then we can bring them into our respite centre,” says Brooke. 


While a lot of traditional respite is Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm, which can be quite limiting for a working carer, this funding includes the provision for increased hours. This means clients can opt for respite services for three to four days instead of their usual two or if their carer is a shift worker, they can come in early in the morning, stay late or come in at weekends (although overnight stays are not funded for). 


“We are a 24-hour respite centre, 7 days a week so we already operate in a way for people to come in at 6am if that’s what they need. This funding helps support that a little more. If needs be, we can take clients home in the evening, get them settled with dinner if that’s what they want, and wait with them until their carer comes home,” says Brooke.


Our philosophy

Our organisational philosophy is all about clients leading life in a meaningful way. That’s why our respite service centre “isn’t a traditional day centre where clients come and sit around,” explains Caylie. “We do an activity and interest check list and life history questionnaire to really understand what clients have done in the past and what kind of activities they’d like to do in the future – liaising with their family on this too as they might have memory problems and difficulty articulating things,” explains Brooke.


What’s the Ipswich Service Centre like?

“All our respite centres look like a house you or I would live in – they’re furnished like normal houses,” says Brooke. “It’s to encourage that home-like environment so when they come in, there’s things that are familiar to them. Particularly when you work with people with dementia, the last thing they want is to come into a sterile environment, with a white lino floor that reminds them of a hospital. It’s about making them feel comfy – a home away from home. But we also acknowledge that it’s not their home but somewhere they can feel comfortable and safe with us.”


“People go out every single day. They enjoy the opportunity to go out in small groups in the community and we do that throughout Brisbane, the north and south coast, Toowoomba – we go everywhere in small groups and join our teams based on the interests and likes of the groups who are going out,” adds Caylie.


“For example, today we’ve got a group of people who love music who’ve gone to the RSL for the morning melody show and lunch. We may have people going fishing, to craft expos or going out shopping for enjoyment, not just to get their groceries. We also have a group of guys who once a fortnight go out to the RSPCA as part of their socialisation program. They play with the animals, which helps to socialise them so they become more ready to be adopted,” Caylie adds.


“Whatever they’ve enjoyed doing, we try to cater for,” says Brooke. “Some people have always liked going to a Broncos game, so we’ll take them to one - ensuring it’s within their capabilities.”


We also run individual programs too. For example, we’ve got a lady who’s joined a local community scrapbooking club - she goes with one of our staff and she’s loving that, she’s been really good at it in the past so now she’s reconnecting with those skills,” says Caylie.  


How well is the service staffed?  

The service has good ratios of staff to clients. “Everything is done on a small group scale so people can assimilate into the community and not stand out. It’s about not isolating them or creating any further stigma – it’s about them fitting into the community exactly as they would’ve done had they not had a diagnosis. Of course they have that support person there just in case they need assistance - we try and do that in a subtle way. Our staff don’t wear uniforms, badges or name tags, there’s nothing to show that they’re from Alzheimer’s Queensland – so there’s nothing to stereotype the clients – they’re just seen as a group of friends going out for lunch or doing whichever activity they like,” says Brooke. 


“Our services are about enabling the client and not wrapping them up in cotton wool – we give them the opportunity to still participate in life in a dignified and respected way,” explains Brooke.


What does it cost?

As services are subsidised by the government, we only ask for a small client contribution, which is negotiable based on your personal circumstances.


Interested in finding out more?

To discuss your needs, call Caylie Field on 07 3812 2253.

Please note that over 65s will need to be assessed by My Aged Care first, but we can help you organise this. We also accept referrals directly.


Words: Ash Anand