Dementia Services Specialist, Elizabeth Baxter first started working with VMCH in 2011 as a case manager, working with a number of people with dementia living in their own homes.
She says through this role, she was able to gain practical knowledge on how to support people and their families to continue living well in the community. With experience largely around less common dementia types, Elizabeth was actively involved in advocating for support provision to people living alone who were either diagnosed with dementia or yet to be diagnosed.
“I would attend VCAT hearings to support the person, and assist with things like the implementation of home modifications. I had experience with different types of dementia and their challenges, including Lewy Body Dementia Frontotemporal dementia, and Younger Onset Dementia (which is any type of dementia diagnosed before the age of 65 years).”
Elizabeth then moved into case management in both the Home Care Packages team and the Carer Support team, and was asked to facilitate a carer support group for family carers of people living with dementia.
To ensure she had the appropriate skills and knowledge, Elizabeth embarked on a Certificate IV in Dementia Care, to provide her with the necessary resources and understanding to support VMCH clients and their families. She is now studying her Masters in Person Centered Dementia Care, which she hopes to finish in 2021, depending on what COVID brings.
“I have learnt so much from people living with dementia and their families about what we, as a provider need to do to support their needs, and the focus on individualised care is a recurrent theme for each person.
“After studying, my passion for quality dementia care grew, and I became involved in community events raising awareness about living with dementia, showcasing what support is available to people, and what best practice should look like.
“To me, best practice is actively engaging and listening to the person with dementia, as well as their family caregivers and support network to establish what their goals are for care. As health professionals, there is often a focus on clinical support and what is important ‘for’ the person, rather than what might be important ‘to’ the person.
“I strongly believe in dignity of risk, and allowing people to maintain their capabilities for as long as possible, even if this means some confronting conversations that may result in families feeling uncomfortable, or questioning the person’s safety. For example, allowing a person with dementia to walk around the block independently if this is important to them, despite the risk of them getting lost or confused.”
Despite the multi-faceted nature of dementia, and the many ways it can affect individuals, Elizabeth’s hope is that that the residents and clients we support, as well as their family members can feel heard.
“I hope people living with dementia can recognise the genuine empathy and care in the support provided by VMCH, and develop trust and connection with their care providers.
“I hope that people can continue to live well with dementia, and that we can support that, however that looks, for each person. I am a strong advocate for individualised support, and to ensure this is delivered.
“I want to ensure that clients and residents are valued as people, and that we are taking the time to connect and learn about all the things that make each person’s life meaningful.”