Specialist Dementia Care Program

Page last updated: 05 November 2019

Specialist Dementia Care Program

Overview

The Specialist Dementia Care Program (SDCP) is a new Australian Government initiative. The program will provide a person-centred, multidisciplinary approach to care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged care services. The program will offer specialised, transitional residential support, focussing on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time, with the aim of enabling people to move to less intensive care settings.

When will the SDCP commence?

A prototype SDCP unit became operational at Brightwater Care Group’s The Village residential aged care facility in Inglewood, Perth in September 2019. The prototype unit will test the SDCP model and assist the Department of Health to refine the program as needed to best meet the needs of the target group.

The SDCP phase one competitive grant opportunity opened on 2 April 2019 and closed on 24 May 2019 to establish SDCP units across 12 Primary Health Network (PHN) regions. The department has commenced negotiations with seven applicants to establish units across six PHN regions: Adelaide, Australian Capital Territory, Brisbane North, Brisbane South, Northern Queensland and North Western Melbourne.  Subject to successful negotiations, providers from phase one are expected to commence operation of units from April 2020. 

A second funding round for the remaining units will follow in 2021-22. The department will inform the aged care sector and grant opportunities will be published on GrantConnect. By registering on GrantConnect, you will be automatically notified of grant opportunities. 

In addition, two units will be established by HammondCare in Cardiff, NSW and Caulfield Vic. The units are anticipated to be operational by early 2020.

A further unit will be established at the Repat site in South Australia, and will be operated by the SA Government in partnership with an aged care provider, who is being selected through a SA Government-run expression of interest. The unit is anticipated to be operational in 2021.

Target group

The SDCP will provide care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (which may also be referred to as responsive behaviours associated with dementia), who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged care services. It is estimated that up to 1 per cent of all people living with dementia would be in the target group. A nationally consistent assessment methodology will be used to ensure the program benefits those most in need.

Key features of the SDCP

The SDCP provides a new approach to care and will be rolled out in two phases. The department will work with key stakeholders to evaluate and refine the model to ensure the model provides optimal care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

The SDCP will provide intensive, specialised care in a dementia friendly environment, generally a dedicated unit within a broader residential aged care service. The SDCP will provide transitional support with the aim of enabling people to move to less intensive care settings. Specialist clinical support will be a key feature of the model. The SDCP will complement state and territory government services and supports for people with very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Locations

At full rollout in 2022-23 it is expected that there will be at least one specialist dementia care unit (within a broader residential aged care service) operating in each of the 31 Primary Health Networks.

Referrals to the Specialist Dementia Care Program

There are specific eligibility requirements for referral to the Program. The person will generally display very severe behaviours and symptoms classified Tier 6 in the Brodaty et al model  as a result of dementia. Symptoms may include aggression, severe agitation, vocalisation, and severe depression and/or anxiety and suicidality as a result of dementia. 

Who is eligible to be referred?

The following minimum requirements must be met prior to referral: 

  • the person has had been assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) (such that the care recipient is approved to receive residential care under the Aged Care Act 1997)
  • the person has a diagnosis of dementia and may have other co-morbid conditions however; the behaviours are a result of dementia. 
  • the person is not under a state or territory mental health detention order when entering a specialist dementia care unit
  • there is appropriate consent, either from the person or their nominated representative

Other requirements to be met before a person enters a SDCP unit are

  • behaviours have not improved following implementation of behaviour management strategies for example, strategies recommended by DBMAS and/or SBRT and other dementia support services within their current care setting.
  • the person would benefit from care in a specialist dementia care unit and be able to transition back to a less intensive care setting within 6–12 months. 

Prior to making a referral please review the SDCP framework on the Department of Health’s Specialist Dementia Care Program site.   

To refer someone to be assessed for the Program, please visit the Dementia Support Australia website.

The Department will provide further updates as the program is rolled out more broadly.

Length of Stay, Security of Tenure and Fees 

For more information please visit the Consumer Fact Sheet.

Relationship to other programs

The SDCP will operate as the ‘third tier’ of Australian Government-funded support for people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, complementing the existing Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) and Severe Behaviour Response Teams (SBRTs).

One of the objectives of the SDCP is to generate evidence on best practice care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia that can be adapted for use in mainstream settings to benefit all people with dementia.

Further information

Specialist Dementia Care Program service delivery principles

Specialist Dementia Care Program framework

Specialist Dementia Care Program – Length of Stay, Security of Tenure and Fees

Australian Government programs to support people living with dementia, and their support networks