Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Conference in Melbourne

The 17th Alzheimer’s Australia Biennial National Dementia Conference is being held in Melbourne right now from 17th to 20th October. The title of the Conference is “ Be The Change” – the conference aims to inspire delegates to explore more innovative and creative ways to improve the quality of life and support of people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia. Being very involved in the aged care sector, as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I look forward to the ongoing changes and improvements as a result of this conference.

I was very impressed by the great line up of Keynote Speakers that include:

 Dr. Susan Koch, who is currently involved in a project to develop an Australian Community of Practice in Research in Dementia (ACcORD) to improve health outcomes for people with dementia and their carers; Professor Sam Gandy, an international expert in the metabolism of the sticky substance called amyloid that clogs the brain in people living with Alzheimer’s disease; Naomi Feil, developed the now world renowned Validation method and has written two books and numerous articles on the method; Scientia Prof Henry Brodaty AO, one of the world’s leading researchers in dementia, a clinician, policy advisor and a strong advocate for people living with dementia and their carers and Ita Buttrose, National Ambassador of Alzheimer’s Australia, having served as National President from 2011-14, and a former Australian of the Year (2013), she has had a long interest in health and ageing.


Dr. Piers Dawes from the University of Manchester is giving the Libby Harrick’s Memorial Oration. Dr. Dawes oration explores the relationship between hearing impairment and cognition, looking at the implications for hearing loss as a biomarker for cognitive well-being and also as a causal contributor to cognitive decline and poor quality of life in older age.

At the Conference research, being jointly undertaken by the University of Melbourne, Dementia Australia and Assistance Dogs Australia, on the affect of assistance dogs on people with early onset dementia was discussed. The research so far has shown that assistance dogs help to relieve loneliness, anxiety and depression for their owners with early onset dementia and gives them the experience of responsible dog ownership. Another bonus is the help they give to carers and family by providing the extra support. This research continues until next year.  I look forward to seeing the final research findings which may be of help to some of my clients who are seeking suitable aged care accommodation.

Pet Therapy Has Many Benefits For The Elderly

Pet Therapy

Latest research has shown that Pet Therapy can boost health and general well-being in humans, particularly in the elderly. Research has revealed many benefits from Pet Therapy, including:
Decreased blood pressure
Less stress
Improved communication
Recall and reminiscence
Improved motor skills
Improved mood
Improved socialisation

Many of the elderly people who were normally unresponsive to other therapies were found to  ‘brighten up’ and have a little chat with a pet. Pets used for Pet Therapy should first undergo special training so they don’t panic when faced with real life scenarios. They should we well socialised, be very obedient and know how to interact with people using mobility aids such as crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs.

Pet Therapy is offered in some residential aged care facilities and is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. The goal may be to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. The positive benefits of pets have been demonstrated to stimulate social interaction, reduce anxiety, combat depression and overcome some of the negative aspects of living in care.

Pet Therapy or Animal Assisted Therapy can be used specifically for dementia care and can contribute to the reduction of the use of medications, including psychotropic drugs for behavioural problems (Schols and Van der Schriek-van Meel 2006). It is important that residents who are introduced to this therapy are those that have previously enjoyed looking after domestic pets or being around animals,that they don’t have known allergies to animals, that they don’t fear or intensely dislike domestic pets or animals and don’t have a history of animal abuse. Those that didn’t like animals previously are less likely to respond in a positive or therapeutic way.
People with early stages of dementia may enjoy looking at pets, walking them, stroking or brushing them. Pet Therapy is also therapeutic for people that have some vision and hearing loss and need tactile stimulation.