MRFF funding for improving access to rehabilitation for people with dementia

Monash University and Peninsula Health have together been awarded one million dollars in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission for a project to improve access to rehabilitation treatments for people living with dementia in the community.

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability in older people. The World Health Organisation recognises that rehabilitation may be needed by anyone with a disability (not just after an acute event) including people with dementia.

Importantly evidence from clinical trials and Australian dementia guidelines recommend that people with dementia are offered rehabilitation interventions such as exercise and occupational therapy to help maintain independence and quality of life. In addition, the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care recommended rehabilitation be a central focus to maintain older people’s physical and cognitive capabilities and facilitate people to remain at home for as long as possible.

Associate Professor Michele Callisaya, in the Peninsula Clinical School at Monash University and Peninsula Health, is the lead investigator on the MRFF funded project, “The right to rehabilitation for people with dementia: tackling stigma and implementing evidence-based interventions”. She is a member and senior researcher in the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, a partnership between Monash University and Peninsula Health, which aims to lead the transformation of health and care for our ageing population.

She said that rehabilitation interventions are often denied to people with dementia.  This can be due, she said, to a number of reasons including health professionals lacking knowledge about the benefit of rehabilitation interventions, or stigma around the ability of people with dementia to engage in such therapies. “In addition, people with dementia and their families often don’t know about the benefit of interventions and how to access them.

“In stage one of our project we will work with people with dementia and health professionals to co-design resources and create local networks to ensure that people with dementia have equal access to quality health care in order to maintain their independence and quality of life. In stage 2 we will implement and evaluate their success in Eastern and South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network regions.”

A/Prof Callisaya said, “It is really exciting to receive this funding. Our multi-disciplinary investigator team has led the way in showing that rehabilitation interventions are effective in improving independence and quality of life for people with dementia.  We now have the opportunity to ensure that this happens in practice.”

The team includes researchers from Monash University, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales and University of Tasmania. Partners are RAIL Research Centre, Dementia Australia, Dementia Alliance International, South Eastern Melbourne PHN,  Eastern Melbourne PHN, Australian Physiotherapy Association, Occupational Therapy Australia, Psychology and Ageing Interest Group – Australian Psychology Association.