Dementia Support Worker Initiative: 5 Steps to Living Well with Dementia in South Tipperary Project
Research team
Prof Suzanne Cahill, Dr Maria Pierce and Dr Andrea Bobersky, Trinity College Dublin

Dementia Support Worker Initiative: 5 Steps to Living Well with Dementia in South Tipperary Project

In 2012, four sites around Ireland received funding to develop a range of innovative community responses which would enable people with dementia to remain living in their homes for as long as possible, living full and inclusive lives. This initiative was part of a programme of work funded by the Health Service Executive and the Atlantic Philanthropies to develop, expand and improve community-based dementia services in Ireland. Alongside the innovative work being carried out in four sites, a supporting programme of research and evaluation was commissioned to evaluate the new developments and to collect preliminary evidence on which to develop future dementia services, focussing on the effectiveness of respite initiatives developed and identifying the obstacles and facilitators to the use of respite care for people with dementia and their families.
This report describes an evaluation of an innovative respite initiative in one of the sites in South Tipperary. The focus of the initiative was to provide individualised supports for people with dementia and their family carers using dementia support workers. This study was carried out in the early stages of the development of this respite service, involving 8 people with dementia and 12 family carers and although this is an exploratory study on a small scale, it has provided new understanding of living with dementia, the role of caregivers and the impact of an initiative like this on both groups. 

It is worth noting that the report captures this initiative at a very early point in time and that, in response to feedback from the individuals and families using the service, as well as input from other stakeholders and the findings of this evaluation, the service has been significantly redesigned to be more responsive to the diverse and complex range of individual needs that present. 

Key Points
  • Both the person with dementia and family carers expressed high levels of satisfaction with the respite options.
  • The flexibility and responsiveness of the service was highly valued by participants.
  • The individualised tailored activities for each person were reported by the person with dementia and their carers as being very beneficial.
  • Having the same dementia support workers available, along with their skills and professionalism were highlighted by the participants as an important factor in the success of the initative.

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