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Creating A Dementia Friendly Medical Practice for Patients

Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. In Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians and the leading cause of death of Australian women.

It is statistics such as this that have led Dr Stephanie Daly of Golden Grove Family Health to improve awareness and reduce the stigma often associated with dementia at the group of medical practices where she works.

“I strongly believe that as a doctor working in a primary health care setting, it is my responsibility to encourage people to become more aware of dementia and the difficulties people living with the disease face.

“Diagnosing dementia can be a challenge in a short doctor’s appointment, so using other members of the team to highlight patients who may be struggling is vital. Reducing stigma and opening the conversation allows relatives and carers to come forward with their concerns,” says Dr Daly.

Dr Daly’s passion for making a difference has led to improved outcomes at her north-eastern suburbs clinic in Adelaide.

“Becoming a Dementia Friend is a great way to improve awareness of the condition. I have worked as a specialist GP in dementia since 2015 and feel it is important to improve the environment in which people living with dementia interact.

“Dementia Australia offers training to help people learn what it’s like to live with dementia, providing people in the local community with a basic knowledge of the condition, and how symptoms may present,” says Dr Daly.

Dr Daly led the passion project and encouraged the doctors and staff at Golden Grove Family Health to get involved. Initially, Dr Daly held a GP education session to discuss the clinical aspects of dementia.

“This education session was very well received by our GPs. Although they were acutely aware of dementia as a disease, I was able to provide a different perspective,” says Dr Daly.

Following the session, Dr Daly engaged with people living with dementia within the local community to ask about their experience at Golden Grove Family Health – Was the clinic and directional signage clear and easy to understand? How comfortable were they in the patient waiting area? What was their experience when speaking with reception staff over the phone?

This qualitative research has been invaluable in understanding the daily challenges people living with dementia face. It has also allowed Dr Daly to conduct a site survey of Golden Grove Family Health through the eyes of a person living with dementia. Many people living with dementia suffer sensory overload – both auditory and visual, so Dr Daly understands the importance of creating a quiet and calming place for patients to sit while waiting for their doctor. She also believes it is essential for reception staff to provide people living with dementia with clear directions, so they understand what to do.

These key learnings assisted Dr Daly to develop a business plan for her clinic that included recommendations on areas of improvement. The plan was submitted to Dementia Australia’s Board, advocates, and people living with dementia for review, and suggested improvements were incorporated into the plan prior to implementation.

Family Health Group is owned and operated by South Australian medical group, Better Medical. The company’s CEO Jeremy Stones, is also a Dementia Friend.

“Dr Daly is committed to raising awareness of dementia within the broader community, and to supporting people with the disease to feel appropriately cared for when they are outside the comfort of their home. Thanks to Dr Daly’s passion, Golden Grove Family Health is currently one of the only healthcare facilities in Australia to be recognised as a Dementia Friend. Better Medical is exceptionally proud of Dr Daly’s achievements, and we know it will make a difference to our patients living with dementia and their families,” says Mr Stones.