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Support workers to tackle behaviour issue among county dementia patients

The county already has 27 people on its mobile behavior response team, but that’s not enough, say officials
dementia elderly

Simcoe County will add five behaviour support workers to help staff deal with dementia-related challenges in the region’s 26 long-term care homes and those caring for a family member at home.

Partnering with Waypoint Centre for Mental Health in a special geriatric program, the county provides a mobile team of behaviour specialists who can offer support and suggestions to nurses, registered practical nurses and personal support workers in not only the county’s four homes, but the privately run centres and private homes in the region.

In its 2016/17 budget, the province announced $10 million in new, enhanced funding for such programs, and our area’s share is $546,940.

That allows Waypoint and the county to boost the program by adding a psychometrist – that is a specialist who researches and analyzes behavior – and 4.6 community support workers.

“Behavioural situations in our long-term care homes are becoming a very serious issue,” said Penetanguishene Mayor Anita Dubeau. “I’m very glad to see we have an additional $546,000 to work with.”

More than one third of people with dementia may behave aggressively – and the Alzheimer Society Ontario says that can be not just verbal, but physical. They may scream, swear, shout, make threats, hit, pinch, pull hair or bite.

The Alzheimer Society also says other challenging behaviours can include wandering about, agitation, restlessness and sexually inappropriate incidents.

Causes of challenging behaviours include inadequate programming and stimulation, medication side-effects, physical discomfort and delusions.

The county already has 27 people on its mobile behavior response team, but that’s not enough, said Tiny Township Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.

“The funding is amazing, but it works at a high level. When you chat with nurses or personal support workers, the recommendation this makes isn’t feasible. Sometimes, you need to have a one-to-one (worker) for a resident all the time,” he said.

County councillors supported the plan, but they weren’t convinced the province would ante up the funding indefinitely.

“We are taking more of health care on,” said Springwater Mayor Bill French, adding he questioned would taxpayers be paying for these workers once the province decided it would no longer fund them.

Last year, the county faced a $340,787 grant cut because Ontario said the case complexity in its long-term care homes was not as high as forecast. The county rejigged staff and used $220,000 of reserves to avoid layoffs.

“This is a lot better than not having the (dementia behavior support) program and we are hoping this program does continue,” said county CAO Mark Aitken.

“It takes a pretty special person, whether you’re an RN or a RPN or a personal support worker, to work in that field.”