The research has also found there is an opportunity for retirement village operators to make villages ‘healthy ageing places’, which help reduce the incidence of dementia by promoting social interaction and healthy lifestyles, as well as sustaining the independence of residents.
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO The Hon. John Watkins AM said with more than 2,200 retirement villages in Australia, it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
This is the first time dementia in retirement villages has been looked at in-depth and the research found vast variation in the design, management, operation and business models of retirement villages, which means variation in the types of support and services offered.
“Retirement village operators really need to make a decision,” Mr Watkins said.
“Do they want to operate a model that supports people with dementia or not? If they do, then they need to incorporate dementia-friendly design and principles to ensure they support people living with dementia. This could include education for staff and residents to be more dementia-aware and co-locating the village with an aged care facility for a smoother transition to aged care if the need arises.
“If they don’t want to support people with dementia, then they need to be upfront about that so residents don’t buy in to a village thinking certain supports may be available when they are not.
“We have heard of vastly mismatched expectations where family members think their loved one with dementia is receiving certain supports and care in the village when they are not. Some of that comes down to a misunderstanding of what a retirement village can and does offer compared with a residential aged care facility, so there really needs to be greater understanding about that.
“At the same time there are many things village operators can do to enable residents with dementia to stay in their home, in the village, for as long as possible before a move to a residential aged care facility needs to be considered.”
Recommendations from the discussion paper, Dementia in Retirement Villages, include:
- That State and Territory Governments ensure greater clarity and transparency for consumers when the relevant legislation is next reviewed;
- That the Australian Government issue instruction that the MyAgedCare website provides information which clearly delineates the difference between residential aged care and retirement villages to avoid confusion for prospective residents;
- That the Australian Government provide pilot funding for capital grants to retirement villages to incorporate dementia-friendly or universal housing design principles and environments in new retirement villages;
- That State and Territory Governments incorporate reduced developer contributions in planning policies for retirement villages that support people with dementia and/or developments that co-locate retirement villages and residential aged care facilities that incorporate dementia-friendly design and environments;
- That the Australian Government provide dedicated funding for developing dementia education programs for retirement village operators and staff;
- That retirement village industry peaks include dementia education in training delivered to retirement village managers and encourage operators to develop housing that achieves the highest level in universal housing design.