University academic to lead new centre to help dementia sufferers

9 April 2013

The University of Sydney's Associate Professor Susan Kurrle is leading a new federal government funded centre, which will deliver improved quality of care for people with dementia across Australia in hospitals, community settings and residential care facilities.

The $25 million National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Centre for Better Health will focus on cognitive and related functional decline in older people to arm service providers and decision makers (including government, accreditors and care providers) with the best evidence and information to deliver Better Care, Better Health, Better Minds for older people with cognitive impairment and dementia.

The centre is unique in that it brings together clinicians, consumers, aged care providers and policy and decision makers to work in tandem with researchers.

Associate Professor Kurrle brings an enormous amount of experience and knowledge to this program with her appointments as the Curran Chair in Health Care of Older People at the University's Sydney Medical School and as Clinical Director and Senior Staff Specialist for Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital's Division of Rehabilitation and Aged Care.

The virtual head office for the Partnership Centre will be located at Hornsby Hospital, but the partnership involves the cooperative work of five states (excluding Tasmania), nine universities and the input of 13 different professions including clinicians, researchers, aged care consumers and service operators, lawyers and government.

Associate Professor Kurrle and her team have spent the past few months developing a five-year work plan that will respond to the needs of the health care system ensuring the programs delivered and the guidelines developed support care in the home, the community, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.

"Others are working on effective prevention or a cure for dementia. Our work is to develop better and innovative ways of caring for people with dementia, and implementing what is known to be best practice but is currently not being used," she said.

"This partnership gives us a fantastic opportunity to better apply the knowledge we have to improve the way we deliver care and support to the older people with cognitive impairment."

Some of the projects that will roll out through the program include:

  • CHOPS (Confused Hospitalised Older Person Study) developed in NSW hospitals, will roll out to more hospitals in New South Wales and two other States. This focuses on improving the delivery of care for patients experiencing delirium by using delirium assessment risks and implementing decoy devices for the safety of the patient.
  • Developing guidelines on the diagnosis and management of dementia for GPs to improve care in the home.
  • General education in the community to remove stigma so those who believe they may be at risk of developing dementia or displaying early signs of the disease are not afraid to access services.
  • Generate conversation among carers and clinicians to better understand the quality use of drugs in older people with cognitive impairment. The University of Sydney's Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer, who works in pharmacology and geriatric medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital, will lead this work.
  • A Vitamin D administration program in aged care facilities will be carried out by Professor Ian Cameron, of the University of Sydney's Northern Clinical School, to improve bone density and assist with fall prevention among residents.

Associate Professor Kurrle said these were only a few of the exciting projects that will run through the life of the program to help shape future practices and ultimately deliver Better Care, Better Health, Better Minds for older people.

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