Dementia Strategist Ben Gatehouse Relishing Role

1,300 people in Australia develop dementia each week, and this number is expected to rise to 7,400 with a total of 1.1 million Australians living with Dementia in 2050.

The opportunity to be able to formulate a company-wide Dementia strategy, with these facts front of mind, was one of the main reasons Ben decided to join the company.

“The opportunities and challenges I am responsible for in the newly developed position of Dementia Strategist I am genuinely excited by, [with the] development of an organisational wide Dementia Strategic Plan one of my key priorities” he says.

Ben is stringent in his belief that whilst the level of dementia care currently provided across Japara homes is of a high standard, there is always room to grow and improve.

“There are significant opportunities to further improve how we provide support to our residents living with dementia and the homes they live in. We are striving to become nationally recognised as the leading provider of residential dementia support services with the highest level and diversity of lifestyle and leisure opportunities.” Ben reveals.

The dementia care space has been constantly evolving over the past decade, not only being recognised as an increasingly important part of aged care, but in relation to technological development, with the potential to increase quality of life for those with dementia. Robots and virtual reality are two such developments, and Ben believes that such technology offers great potential for our residents.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the lives of our residents living with dementia and will support a huge range of entertainment experiences and social connections.”

“In the near future Virtual Reality (VR) devices, personal computers, personalised Bluetooth MP3 players and immersive technology resources will be standard in all our homes,” he reveals.

Technology and role changing aside, Ben hopes that by further increasing the already high quality of support in our homes, Japara will continue to be a leader in the sector, whilst helping to increase the profile of residents living with dementia, and provide them with the respect they deserve.

“Unfortunately there are still negative stereotypical attitudes of people living with dementia within the industry. We need to help build ‘dementia friendly communities’ not only within our own homes but in the wider community.”

Ben has noticed a positive reaction throughout the organisation as his plans for residents living with Dementia come into fruition.

“There is an obvious and positive momentum occurring at our homes.”

“Progressively, we are working towards homes supporting a ‘living life as usual’ environment where our residents’ preferences, values and routines are supported to enable a continuity of lifestyle when they come to live with us.

Ben believes that aged care providers in Australia should look internationally to see how dementia care is provided overseas, with a global trend towards more intimate, smaller personal spaces, to help bridge the gap with the community and support ‘living life as usual’.

“These environments have been shown to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. A blurring of lines between who lives in the community and who lives in residential care is something the industry can work harder at delivering.”

He is confident that the company is on the right path, with the goal of continuing to be the leader in this space, as the strategic priorities are delivered.

“Improved understanding of dementia and how we can further enhance our homes to be places of wellness, healthy activity, diversity and optimal choices will be a continuous journey.

The leadership from our Managers, Dementia Champions and Lifestyle staff that I have had the pleasure of witnessing is inspiring and gives me great confidence that we are establishing ourselves as the leader in residential support environments.”

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