News & Stories

Keeping people living with dementia connected during lockdown

Adapting to online community events within the Dementia-Friendly community of Kiama

Michael Preston graduated with an Associate Degree in Dementia Care in 2015. He has since worked as a Dementia-Friendly Project Officer with the Kiama Project in New South Wales. The Kiama Project has worked continuously to implement and test various strategies to improve the dementia inclusiveness of the Kiama local government area, including community events, education, and awareness programs.

I believe that studying the dementia course has given me the backbone to the work I now undertake. I have a firmer knowledge base of dementia, its effects, and challenges faced by the family and friends of the person living with dementia. It has given me the skills and ability to really dedicate the core of my work toward the real meaning of “Person-Centred Care” and how it has a positive outcome in real life.

Michael Preston, Associate Degree in Dementia Care graduate

Around 18 months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the Dementia-Friendly project in Kiama seemed doomed to fold, as most of the work was conducted face-to-face.

The Kiama Project decided to adopt a more diverse direction in engaging with the community in the form of online communication. Enter the world of Zoom conferencing: this allowed us to maintain a continued connection with people living with dementia and their care partners in our community. As a result, weekly social Zoom meetings were introduced online. Also, the monthly Alliance meetings were being conducted via the same method. Flyers were distributed to encourage more community members to join our sessions. The opportunity to open our global connection has allowed the weekly Zoom meetings to include delegates from Alzheimer’s Singapore; this has provided an additional international layer of communication support and exchange of ideas.

Michael Preston at Kiama Project community event prior to COVID restrictions

Last December we received a live presentation at our Alliance meeting from Alzheimer’s New York; with another live presentation at the October 2021 meeting from Mississippi.

We are embracing new ways of virtual communication in assisting people who may not have the expertise in computer technology. We are providing support and encouragement to engage with our online community and we are looking at adapting and developing our educational resources to be delivered online to continue the work already underway which was previously delivered face-to-face.

As previously mentioned, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has restricted movement, and social distancing and isolation have become even more of a concern for our forgotten elders living in our community with little or no family. Many are managing life at home alone with various health conditions, and more work needs to be undertaken to ascertain how they could be reached and supported. One area identified is the utilisation of existing services in the community such as Meals on Wheels, who have delivered flyers to their customers to encourage them to join weekly online social Zoom meetings. It is further recognised that many have difficulties with operating computers and technical know-how - again, the level of support to engage in such activities would need to be quantified.

Since restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were imposed, we have had to think outside the box in terms of how we can continue to communicate and provide support for people living with dementia, which had previously been conducted face-to-face. We believe that this initiative has provided an additional level of interaction which post-pandemic will serve to be an asset in reaching out to people further afield than the Kiama district. When face-to-face meetings resume, the opportunity to include the additional platform of Zoom would make the sessions inclusive to any part of the world. Reaching out to people nationally and internationally will capture a richer, more diverse and culturally inclusive approach to future communication within the dementia community.

The goal of this initiative has been to maintain a source of communication and support for people living with a diagnosis of dementia and their care providers in our community.

The weekly Zoom meetings have provided an alternative way to connect and maintain a visual support network. This has allowed the group to extend our coverage to other parts of the Illawarra, and internationally with Alzheimer’s Singapore. The experience of the sharing process has brought like-minded communities together to embrace a new way of providing continued connections.

A certain amount of camaraderie and teamwork has been an essential factor in providing continued service to the community at this very delicate time, which has proved challenging. It is hoped that the provision of an alternative method of communication has given comfort, support, and a significant way for making our community one that cares and is willing to go above and beyond in looking at alternative methods to maintain quality communication and support.

In conclusion, the phrase that comes to mind is Dementia, like COVID-19, is a global issue which does not discriminate; collectively we can fight the battle to win the war together”. 

If you would like to learn more about the Wicking Dementia Centre or the Dementia Care courses, visit our website.

Read other testimonials from our current students and graduates.