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The Geriatrician in Practice Project | Karen Shepherd, Shoalhaven Hospital

5 Feb 2018, by Informa

As we approach the National Dementia Conference, we are excited to be releasing a series of content pieces to give you a sneaky insight into some of the topics for discussion at the event this year.  In our first interview, we spoke to Karen Shepherd from Shoalhaven Hospital about their Geriatrician in Practice Project which is seeing some exciting and interesting outcomes.

Karen Shepherd, ISLHD Dementia/Delirium CNC (Community) | Aged Care, Shoalhaven Hospital

What is your current role and what does this entail?

I have been the Community Dementia/Delirium CNC based at Shoalhaven Hospital for the last 6 years- over the past 2 years I have been co- coordinating and participating in the Geriatrician in Practice Project. This involves me being a member of the GIP Working Party, acting as a liaison with Practice Managers, Practice Nurses and GP’s, triaging and coordinating appointments and participating in the GIP clinics with the Geriatrician, GP and Practice Nurse with a collaborative and team handed approach.

In your experience, what are the challenges around detecting and diagnosing dementia?

The challenges in diagnosing dementia are varied and can include: the person themselves lacking insight that they have a developing cognitive issue, lack of Specialist Geriatric services in some areas leading to long wait times for assessment and diagnosis, a partner masking symptoms from other family and medical staff, lack of education on early detection of dementia ( we often get bogged down educating on behaviors, medications and the later stages of dementia) and the general “negative” image of dementia – people will often put off seeking assessment and diagnosis hoping to avoid the dreaded “D” word!

What is the Geriatrician in Practice Project?

The Geriatrician in Practice Project is supporting General Practitioners and Practice Nurses in the Shoalhaven region to increase their skill-set in assessing, diagnosing and managing dementia.

The Geriatrician in Practice initiative involves a Geriatrician and Dementia/Delirium Clinical

Nurse Consultant accompanying the GP and Practice Nurse in their rooms and providing a

joint, integrated GP and Specialist appointment.

Outcomes to date have been very positive including:  a high level of satisfaction from providers and consumers, less need for Specialist review, reduced presentations to the Emergency Department and the earlier identification of symptoms of dementia- particularly in the Younger Onset Dementia Group.

Who are the key stakeholders involved in the project?

There have been a number of key stakeholders involved in getting the GIP Project established and keeping it sustained- they include:

  • ISLHD Aged Care Team (Shoalhaven)
  • Coordinare South Eastern Primary Health Network
  • The NSW Ministry of Health- Planning and Innovation Fund
  • The 10 participating General Practices
  • The patients and their carers

The GIP Project is overseen by a GIP Working Party which meets monthly.
Can you give us sneaky insight into what your presentation at the National Dementia Conference will reveal?

As the GIP Project is very much a team approach we thought it would be nice to present it at the conference with the same collaborative slant. Therefore, we will have 3 presenters representing different aspects of the GIP Project- a Geriatrician, a Practice Nurse from one of the participating General Practices and myself-we will be outlining the GIP Project and discussing our outcomes and experiences to date.

What are you most looking forward to at the National Dementia Conference?

We are excited to share the work we have done within the General Practice setting – we hope to inspire others to explore alternative models of dementia assessment and management in partnership with primary care providers.

Attending a National Dementia conference will also be a great opportunity to network and establish linkages with like-minded professionals from around Australia- the agenda looks to have a really broad and interesting range of topics!

Karen will be speaking at the National Dementia Conference taking place on the 15-16th May at Rendezvous Melbourne.

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