Palliative care training for careworkers caring for people living with dementia

Palliative care training for careworkers caring for people living with dementia

A blog post written by Jon San Martin and Professor Josephine Clayton

Careworkers are highly skilled care professionals providing support to meet many Australians' fundamental day-to-day care needs. Most tasks performed by careworkers include activities that are essential in daily living. The health and aged care sector rely heavily on careworkers to deliver safe, quality care across many settings including community and residential care. Many people living with complex care needs, including dementia require support from careworkers.

Careworkers play a crucial role in enabling individuals to live in their homes - promoting independence and improving well-being. Careworkers are involved in activities that require a high level of trust from the individual and their family. For the person living with dementia and their family this trusting relationship often creates a safe space that allows the person to share about their life experiences, such as family relationships, their travels and their life story. As a respected team member and as someone who knows the person living with dementia well, it is common for careworkers to be asked their thoughts and opinions about certain decisions or health situations relating to the person.

“Gaining the person’s trust was a very important step in my role when supporting a person living with dementia… the person could feel vulnerable that someone had to be there to assist, and I always had to be reassuring…” says Jon San Martin reflecting on his previous experience working as a careworker.

Across all areas of care provision, the contributions of careworkers in delivering person-centred care are immensely valued by individuals, family members and the healthcare team. Many people receiving aged care services, including people with dementia living in residential aged care or at home, have careworkers they trust and rely on.

Frontline careworkers have a unique role in improving the care services available to people living with dementia and their families. They are often well-placed in recognising changes in health and behaviour in a person living with dementia, including signs the person is approaching the end of their life.

“…when I was a careworker, we didn’t think about palliative care until we were certain that the person living with dementia was dying...” says Jon San Martin

However, it is not common practice for careworkers to be involved in end-of-life discussions. To help change this, a new set of practical dementia-specific resources that promote greater involvement of careworkers in initiating courageous end-of-life conversations and recognition of palliative care needs has been developed by a team of HammondCare clinicians and researchers led by Professor Josephine Clayton and Jon San Martin, in collaboration with CareSearch.

The Advance Project toolkit, funded by the Australian Government under the National Palliative Care Projects scheme, includes training videos and eLearning with real life scenarios to take staff through approaches and tips to help them initiate conversations about advance care planning and palliative care with a person living with dementia and their family. The resources and training were informed by literature reviews and input from a wide range of stakeholders including people living with dementia and their families, careworkers and other relevant professionals and an expert advisory group. Complementary training for clinicians and managers working in residential and community aged care and primary care settings is also available.

Access the free Advance Project (Dementia) training and resources.

Profile picture of Jon San Martin

Jon San Martin
Clinical Nurse Consultant
The Advance Project
The Palliative Centre, HammondCare


Profile picture of Josephine Clayton

Professor Josephine Clayton
Director of Palliative Care Research & Learning
The Palliative Centre, HammondCare




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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.