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Managing challenging behaviours in clients with dementia


Delegates to Occupational Therapy Australia’s (OTA) National OT Aged Care Symposium have heard how sensory interventions in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) can assist in managing challenging behaviours in clients with dementia.

A body of work completed by occupational therapist Aimee Prosser, from Recovery Station in New South Wales, demonstrated the potential benefits of individualised sensory programs for clients with dementia living in a residential care environment.

“The primary aim of the work was to show how individualised care planning focused on the sensory preferences of clients can reduce episodes of challenging behaviour and improve their quality of life, as well as how to embed this approach in the culture of the RACF,” Ms Prosser said.

The presentation of this technique involved a literature review and qualitative case study based on sensory programs developed and implemented in a RACF. This included the presentation of de-identified care plans and educational resources developed for care staff.

“Challenging behaviours is a broad term that can cover behaviour that is socially inappropriate, verbally or physically aggressive, destroying property or hurting oneself, or becoming withdrawn and uncooperative. Any or all of these behaviours may be evident in the individual with dementia as their functional, cognitive and communication capacity declines,” Ms Prosser said.

“Sensory techniques can be used to address this decline. For example, one RACF has effectively applied sensory integration techniques such as; tactile soft animals, oral motor jewellery, weighted blankets, light displays, and a Nordic Relax chair for their residents with dementia, to reduce behaviours such as calling out, picking at skin or fabric, sucking on hands, crying and social and activity withdrawal.

“By developing individualised sensory programs for their residents, staff are better able to identify the resident’s unique sensory preferences and provide appropriate and effective support to meet their needs.

“As this is a new concept for many aged care providers, and represents another time pressure on already strained staff, it was identified that the most effective techniques/sensory aids are those that can be left safely with the resident without the need for constant supervision, or those that can be integrated into their daily living activities and routines,” Ms Prosser said.

More than 200 delegates have gathered at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to discuss the work they do to enrich the lives of older Australians. Under the slogan “Respect, Relate, Renew”, the symposium offers delegates the opportunity to share evidence based information and to consider the changing aged care landscape, particularly the introduction of Consumer Directed Care and new service delivery models.

The symposium runs from 22 to 23 February.

Media Contact
Michael Barrett | Government, Media and Public Relations
0403 795 505

About Occupational Therapy Australia
Occupational Therapy Australia is the national professional association representing occupational therapy in Australia. We offer opportunities for our members to enhance best practice through professional development, support, and access to profession-specific information.

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