Community support: the key to independent living with dementia

An older woman receives assistance with ironing from her support worker.

If you are supporting a parent or a partner living with dementia, making the decision with them about how to manage their needs in the future can be extremely difficult. We look at how people with dementia can be supported to live at home for longer – and the important role that community plays in supporting independence.

As more flexible aged care options become available, the notion of the inevitability of moving to a residential facility as we age is becoming less acceptable. These days, the overwhelming majority of older Australians wish to age in place, in the comfort of their own homes. With 812,500 people expected to be living with dementia by 2054, according to Dementia Australia, more support will be needed for people to remain living independently even with cognitive impairment like dementia. But with the right support, remaining at home can be hugely beneficial, providing the comfort and safety of familiar surroundings.

Community support is key for independent living and dementia

In this article in The Canberra Times, Alzheimer’s WA CEO Rhonda Parker reported that 70 percent of people with a dementia diagnosis today lived at home. In this sense, she sees it as a community challenge – emphasising the importance of ensuring people with dementia do not feel confined to their home.

“It is imperative that opportunities exist for people living with dementia to have continued engagement in the local community in ordinary, everyday activities, and that they feel safe, comfortable and confident to do so.”

She uses the example of ‘memory cafes’, meetings that take place across the country where people with dementia, and those who support them, can connect with others. Starts at 60 also reported on a 2018 study from the University of Exeter which found that psychological factors, such as optimism, self-esteem and instances of loneliness and depression, were closely linked to quality of life and wellbeing in people with dementia.But while maintaining social connections is important, successful independent living for people with dementia requires more to ensure overall health and wellbeing. As reported by Forbes, a study out of the US found that while living at home was a preference for many, greater community based medical support for overall health was needed to ensure the wellbeing of people living independently with dementia.

Get the right support team for your loved one

Mable is an online platform where people who need support can find and directly engage independent support workers in their community looking to provide it. Mable’s online community of support workers includes experienced aged care workers, nurses, dementia care specialists and everyday people looking to provide companionship and domestic and social support. Mable’s flexibility means that clients can engage a team of people to support them in different ways. A person’s support team might include a visit from a nurse for a weekly checkup, someone from the local community who can provide assistance with shopping or meal preparation, and an aged care professional with experience in dementia support who can visit and keep an eye out for any warning signs that additional support is needed.

Because clients and their family members are effectively managing their own support by selecting support workers and scheduling visits, they avoid high administration costs charged by many traditional service providers. The result? More hours of support from their government funding such as a Home Care Package. In fact, some Mable clients have been able to access twice the amount of support than they would have via a traditional provider. For many clients, these hours mean the difference between being able to remain in their home and having to enter a residential facility.