Building on a solid foundation

McCusker Learning and Development, formerly the Sir James McCusker Training Foundation, is aiming to build on its 16 years of service to the aged care industry at its Bull Creek headquarters. The not-for-profit operation is currently focused on developing more specialised training programs for aged care employees and carers of dementia patients. McCusker Learning and Development plans to expand its courses into overseas markets, reaching countries where aged care training opportunities are limited. Sir James McCusker and his children established the foundation in April 1990, through Anglican Homes, with a vision to provide comprehensive aged care training for carers and health care professionals with a special focus on the needs of people with dementia. His son, Malcolm McCusker QC, continues to support the foundation he helped found and believes the group continues to do a great job. Watching a loved one suffering with the effects of dementia is an experience Mr McCusker and his family are familiar with, having seen his mother live with the condition. “Our family were fortunate to have a nurse come in to assist. We never wanted to put her into a nursing home,” he said. Together with his father and sister, Mr McCusker had discussions about what they could do to help other dementia sufferers, especially those without specialised care. Mr McCusker approached Anglican Homes to find out how to establish and finance a foundation that could teach carers the skills to handle dementia sufferers and develop their awareness of the condition. McCusker Learning and Development is the result and, since its inception, it has provided training to about 28,000 people in WA, the eastern states and overseas. Dementia leads to the progressive decline in cognitive function of a sufferer due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. Memory, attention, language and problem solving are areas particularly affected, and in later stages a sufferer may experience disorientation with time, place and person, the later not knowing who they are. Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible, but it is believed only 10 per cent of cases can be reversed. McCusker Learning and Development manager Bruce MacAdam said there were more than 17,000 dementia sufferers in WA, a number that was expected to increase five-fold by 2050. “Our trainees, through study and ‘on the job’ training, develop the capacity to communicate with and understand the needs of patients, particularly those with dementia,” he said. This involves keeping a positive attitude and developing the correct skills to provide personal care and in-home respite to these patients, especially in the areas of showering and feeding. McCusker Learning and Development is a registered training organisation and offers a range of competence-based training with the Certificate III and IV in Aged Care Work, as well as training in diabetes care, home care skills and working with difficult patients. The foundation recognises that the quality of aged care services is an issue for many countries and is currently developing online training programs to reach aged care trainees and carers all over the world. Key partnerships have been established with the Positive Ageing Foundation, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hollywood Hospital and other aged care agencies to guide the development of the foundation. Anglican Homes offers a range of services including two dementia-specific hostels with co-located respite centres, three dementia-specific day centres, five nursing homes, 11 hostels and 18 retirement villages.

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