Dementia and Complex Dementia Research

Positioned at the intersection of research and operations within Australia’s largest provider of dementia-specific services, HammondCare provides a working model of ongoing research knowledge translation and implementation.

As an important adjunct to our existing suite of research activities, we host a range of sponsored pharmaceutical trials of new, potentially disease-modifying medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. These activities complement existing research and provide hope for people living with dementia and their carers.  

Our research focus areas for 2021-2022 are:

  • Describing and evaluating the BPSD approach through both HammondCare’s Specialist Dementia Care Program and Dementia Support Australia activities and outcomes
  • Implement and evaluate new technology and innovations in a personalised way to reduce the need for restrictive care interventions
  • Describing and evaluating dementia care design to place HammondCare as a leader in community and inter-generational engagement
  • Examining the evidence and shaping best practice for people with terminal agitation
  • Strengthening our clinical trials capability and collaborations

peoplechatStrategic partnerships

NHMRC Partnership Centre on dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in older people (CDPC)

HammondCare was one of four partners in the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDPC) that focused on cognitive and related functional decline in older people. Working together with the National Health & Medical Research Centre, Alzheimer’s Australia, Helping Hand Aged Care (SA) and Brightwater Care Group (WA), the CDPC delivered outputs informed by research and aimed at improving care for people with dementia and related functional decline.

The CDPC was unique in that its research was tied to delivery of care and improved quality of life for people in need. The multidisciplinary research teams were made up of researchers, policy makers, service providers, and health and aged care workers, bringing their experience in practice to applied and translational research. HammondCare's support for the CDPC came through HammondCare Foundation supporters, The Thomas Foundation.

The CDPC’s Chief Investigator Professor Susan Kurrle from the University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD), joined HammondCare in 2021 as Senior Principal Research Fellow.

docsCurrent projects


The Dementia Centre research and analytics team collects and characterises key outcomes indicators in HammondCare Specialist Dementia Care Program Units (SDCPUs). The longitudinal data set is not only of operational utility but is informing into research grant submissions and academic publications.

The Dementia Centre research team will be working with other SDCPU providers to evaluate whether the use of these services results in less and shorter hospital admission. They aim to understand if care provided through these services can result in a reduction in the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, in lower rates of prescription of medications, and improved quality of life.

The Darlinghurst Study

The purpose of this research study is to evaluate the value of HammondCare Darlinghurst in a holistic way, to inform key areas of policy and service provision for older people at risk of homelessness.

The researchers hope to demonstrate the cost benefits of our model of care, examining housing and hospital, community, and emergency services. The reason for this broad view is that older people who become homeless may have been clients of multiple services throughout their lives. The study may also idenfity key points for preventative intervention targets and opportunities for service improvements.

The Advance Project

The Advance Project is a national study led by HammondCare in partnership with Flinders University (CareSearch). It aims to develop a suite of practical and training resources to help community and residential care staff initiate conversations about advance care planning. The resources aid the assessment of palliative care needs of people at various stages of cognitive decline, ultimately helping care staff to better support the families of people living with dementia.

The study is in its third phase, with a literature review, environmental scan and extensive stakeholder engagement process having already been completed to inform development of the resources and training.

A national advisory group is guiding the development of the resources in collaboration with dementia, residential and home care teams from HammondCare, ensuring they are not only of benefit to frontline staff at HammondCare, but also suitable for use across Australia.

The Australian government has provided funding for the development of these resources until the end of July 2023.

The Cancer Pain book and app

The Cancer Pain book and accompanying app will provide evidence-based resources for people with cancer pain, and their families, equipping them with practical tools to help manage pain. The app development has been funded by the HammondCare Foundation with additional funding provided by the Staff Specialist Trust fund.

Being Present

When people enter residential aged care, they have to adjust to an unfamiliar environment, new systems and new people. This can be a difficult time for everyone and for people with dementia it can be a particularly difficult time.

This study was undertaken by HammondCare and The Dementia Centre in three HammondCare RACFs in the Northern Sydney area, asking care workers:

  • What aspects of care they felt they performed well in providing
  • What challenges care workers felt they faced in being “present” with residents with dementia
  • What supports do care workers feel would help them be more “present” and help them provide better person-centred care

The results are due to be published in 2022.

Completed Research

The aim of this project was to improve the delivery and quality of palliative care for people with advanced dementia living in residential aged care by developing a facilitated case conferencing resource. This project was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and was undertaken in collaboration with investigators from the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Queensland, the University of Technology and the University of Notre Dame.

Read the results of this study

Agar M, Luckett T, Luscombe G, et al. Effects of facilitated family case conferencing for advanced dementia: a cluster randomised clinical trial. PLoS One 2017; 12(8): e0181020

This project was conducted to help us better understand the needs of older people and their caregivers who receive community-based care services, and how well these services meet their needs over time. This project also investigated whether community services improve quality of life of older people and reduce caregiver burden.

This was a collaboration between the University of New South Wales and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres, who also supported it.

By investigating the wellbeing of caregivers of people with dementia across a number of wellness domains, this project aimed to gain insight into the day-to-day wellness needs of caregivers and identify the constraints that limit caregivers achieving a sense of good wellbeing.

This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and was undertaken in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology, the University of New South Wales and Alzheimer’s Australia.

This project aimed to develop a nationally applicable and accessible gold-standard framework to guide point-of-care palliative dementia care, raise community and aged care provider awareness of dementia as a terminal illness, and increase confidence to have conversations about end-of-life care decisions and preferences.

This project was funded by Alzheimer’s Australia and undertaken by HammondCare in collaboration with Flinders University.

This national project will develop and apply a health economic model to the development, implementation and evaluation of a consumer-directed care (CDC) approach to community care service delivery in Australia. This project will generate improvements to the operation and cost efficiency of CDC and, as a consequence, have a positive impact on the quality of CDC service delivery.

This project is being led by Flinders and done in partnership with HammondCare, ACH Group Aged Care and Housing Group, Catholic Community Services, Helping Hand Aged Care, Resthaven, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Monash University. This project is financially supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant.

This project involved a systematic review of literature relating to seating for people living with advanced dementia, a review of available seating products, the development of a typology of seating and a review of current clinical practices used in residential aged care facilities. Current practice has no empirically based guidelines but, anecdotally, clinical experience suggests that seating is suboptimal and may lead to poor outcomes. This project laid foundations for future practical intervention studies to improve care outcomes for residents and staff.

This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and a report on this project will soon be released. This project inspired the production of the 10 tips about seating and postural care for older people booklet.

The booklet is available to download for free here. This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and was undertaken in collaboration with UNSW, Brightwater Care Group and the Independent Living Centre, NSW.

This project aimed to develop and implement a strategy to increase the acceptance and use of assistive technology (AT) to decrease carer burden and support carers in helping older Australians to remain safely in their own homes for as long as possible. There are already a multitude of ATs that exist, however many of these are driven by technological advancement rather than by the needs of the user or the carer. This project involved conducting a detailed assessment of the carer’s need that might be addressed by AT, to determine which particular AT provided the best solution to meet the need.

This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Sydney.

This project reviewed existing literature to identify assistive technologies that can be applied in everyday practice to improve mobility, communication, cognition, manipulation and orientation.

This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and published in the PDRC Report. 

Dementia Dog is a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good, combining professional expertise to pilot and develop new services for people living with dementia. This evaluation program focuses on the impact of Dementia Assistant Dogs in the lives of people with dementia and covers a range of topics including economic impact.

This program is funded by charitable donations and Dementia Assistance Dogs.

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‘My Life, My Way’ is a project providing support to older people with dementia and their carers in the Belfast and Northern Trust areas. The aim of this project is to promote the personal autonomy and decision making of hard to reach, older people with dementia who are isolated and at high risk of disempowerment.

My Life My Way is a partnership project with the Big Lottery Fund and the Belfast and Northern Health and Social Care Trusts. The six-month realist evaluation, which concluded in March 2019, looks at the impact of the program from the perspective of people with dementia, carers, referrers and volunteers.

Going to the toilet is a universal human need and a core consideration when travelling and accessing the community. Barriers to accessing toilets while travelling can be wide ranging and may vary across different conditions, making it difficult for the transport industry to meet these varied and often conflicting needs.

The aim of this project is to explore and define the needs of disabled people with a range of impairments to use toilet facilities while travelling.

ECRED, Upstream, PAMIS, Scottish Dementia Alumni, The Dementia Centre and HammondCare in the UK worked with a range of disabled co-researchers, gathering their own real-time everyday experiences of finding and using toilets. The research was funded by the National Lottery funded DRILL Program (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) and reported in 2019.

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Dementia is a leading cause of disease burden in Australia. Functional deficits in daily living activities such as personal hygiene are predictable outcomes of the progression of the disease. Dementia is commonly accompanied by behavioural changes, including agitation and aggression, frequently associated with the performance of daily activities, including toileting, and often directed towards the carer.

This project will use a semi-structured, in-depth interview with care recipients, their family carers and aged care staff to determine: the level of acceptance of the bidet by the user, the perceived efficacy of the bidet to cleanse and dry the user, the ways in which the bidet is used, and to develop an understanding of the issues and benefits of bidet use.

This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres.

This HammondCare project explored the use of a baby doll to provide enhanced life engagement to residents with dementia. Peer-reviewed journal articles support the use of dolls in triggering happy memories and/or soothing patterns of behaviour. Measurements of behaviour and emotion were taken before, during and after the therapy sessions for analysis.

When data collection was completed and analysed, results were used for the purpose of creating an individualised doll therapy plan for each resident, to be implemented in their life engagement program.

The objectives of this project were to identify the specific gaps between the theory and practice of environmental design for residential care facilities (e.g. the failure to avoid over-stimulation or to provide wayfinding cues), to discover obstacles to best practice (lack of knowledge, cost, other priorities etc), to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles to ensure best practice and to disseminate these strategies for discussion.

The project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Wollongong.

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The Going to Stay at Home project was the development of a seven-day intensive residential carer training course that involves both the primary family carer and the person living with dementia. The aim of the project is to provide a practical, cost-effective, intensive and accessible residential family carer training course to enable family carers and people living with dementia to continue living in the community.

This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and is being undertaken in collaboration with UNSW.

The program was run at HammondCare Miranda in 2013 and also ran in Tamworth in March 2014.

On completion of HammondCare residential site Southwood, 55 high-care residents were relocated from Sinclair Home – a ‘traditional’ nursing home environment – to Southwood, which adopted a small-scale home-based model of care. This study monitored the effects of relocation and the new model of care on resident engagement, distress and interaction with staff. Staff work patterns and family satisfaction were also measured.

The environments were audited with three separate tools.

The study showed that resident engagement increased following the transition and further increased in the months following staff training. Staff also showed an increase in interactive tasks with residents after the move and again after training. Low rates of distress were recorded in both environments. Southwood cottages scored higher on all domains of the three audit tools, offering a more private, home-like residence. Restraints were not used in Southwood, resulting in a higher level of falls, which decreased back to pre-transition levels after a few months. Families of residents were more satisfied with the environment, the staff, and the food.

This study was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Sydney.

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This project aimed to identify the principles that will assist designers, architects and planners to provide environments that reduce disability and enhance quality of life of people with dementia. This project also sought to provide a foundation for the discussion of a coherent strategy for encouraging the application of the design principles and the provision of appropriate assistive technologies.

The results of the project indicate a reasonable level of certainty that designers and architects may be confident about using unobtrusive safety measures, varying the ambience, size and shape of spaces; providing single rooms; maximising visual access to important features; and providing for stimulus control with the periodic availability of high levels of illumination.

The project was undertaken in collaboration with the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and the University of New South Wales.

In this HammondCare project, Residents of HammondCare’s special care unit for people with severe and persistent challenging behaviours were continuously pulling down curtains, which resulted in damage to walls and fixtures and the ripping out of curtain tracks.

This project sought to identify alternatives to the strong curtain tracking and fixtures used at the cottage, which were unable to cope with such treatment by the residents, to ensure that residents could continue to enjoy the many benefits of curtains in the home.

This project determined that the behaviour of the residents in pulling the curtains down was not triggered by any other stimuli aside from the presence of the curtains. HammondCare partnered with an interior designer and curtain maker to identify alternatives that would reduce the impact of this behaviour on the environment, facility, staff and residents.

This project aimed to significantly improve the quality of care provided to people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia by developing and implementing systems, skills and resources for carers and health professionals that will facilitate timely communication on end-of-life issues with those that are diagnosed and their families.

This study was led by researchers at QUT and was conducted in collaboration with Spiritus, The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus and Alzheimer’s Australia.