Dementia Training for Technicians Leads to Improved Service Delivery in Residential Aged Care

In a first for a mechanical service company, AE Smith commissioned peak body Leading Aged Services Australia-Victoria (LASA Victoria) to provide specialist dementia training to all its Service Technicians to help improve relationships and service delivery to residential aged care customers

3 Nov 2014

My first impression on knowing [AE Smith] were doing specific dementia training was actually surprise because I didn’t realise it was part of their core business. Dementia is [Brightwater’s] core business, so I was really quite surprised

Jennie Neilson, Resident Liaison Coordinator, Brightwater Care Group

Invited to speak at the Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) National Congress in Adelaide on 21 October, AE Smith General Manager of Western Australia, Graeme Stewart, and LASA Victoria General Manger of Training, Diana Fitzgerald explained how – and why – such training can reduce risk.

“We identified aged care as a market we wanted to specialise in. But in conversations with our young service technicians, we came across a problem,” Graeme said, adding that some technicians were reluctant to work in aged care facilities due to stressful incidents in the past.

“We have a responsibility to our staff that they are able to operate confidently and comfortably in their workplace,” he said.

“To AE Smith aged care customers, both current and future, we saw several risks associated with service providers working on site including: the mental and physical safety of residents; how care staff deal with incidents and the time it takes to manage this; and potential scrutiny from families or residents, or the broader community or media.

“Safety of our staff and the community is our number one priority, but in aged care, the usual approach to safety isn’t enough.

“We needed to increase awareness and understanding of dementia with our service technicians and then educate them on appropriate responses and actions within an aged care environment.”

Developing the training

Diana told the audience that such training was “an innovative step for a service provider to take” and designing appropriate training was critical.

“This wasn’t the normal demographic for LASA Victoria. We were training a group of young men, external to the ‘world’ of aged care.”

The training covered key points such as understanding how dementia affects the brain, understanding the behaviour of a person with dementia and how to communicate effectively, all with the aim of increasing the empathy of the technicians working in aged care facilities.

In a short video played at the conference, Resident Liaison Coordinator at Brightwater Care Group, Jennie Neilson, said a good cultural fit was vital when considering a service provider.

“It’s important they have experience in working in a residential environment in an occupied site,” she said.

“My first impression on knowing [AE Smith] were doing specific dementia training was actually surprise because I didn’t realise it was part of their core business. Dementia is [Brightwater’s] core business, so I was really quite surprised.”

Valuable lessons

AE Smith Service Supervisor, Joel Tebbenhoff, said the most valuable thing he took away from the training was “teaching yourself to put yourself in the residents’ shoes”.

“You are coming into their house so to speak,” he said.

“When I go into an aged care facility now, if I am working in a resident’s room, I actually introduce myself to the resident. Whereas before I just went to the care manager.”

Joel is one of more than 75 AE Smith Service Technicians across Australia that have received the specialist training designed and delivered by LASA Victoria.

“We have asked [our Technicians] what’s different now they’ve done the training,” Graeme said.

“They’re asking for more information, they’re aware of communication challenges and how to assist, and they’re scheduling work differently to reduce safety risks.”

Kane Thompson, AE Smith Service Technician said, “If I am entering a resident’s bedroom, I knock until I get a response, then I enter the room with a smile and make a connection with the resident before I look at their air conditioner.”

“The valuable piece of knowledge I took away from the training is that these facilities are the resident’s homes and therefor you should treat them with the respect you would like in your own home.”

Graeme ended the presentation reminding the audience of aged care professionals that “when everyone has care in full focus – the aged care facility, the service provider and industry body like LASA, we can see how a practical initiative, such as specialist aged care training for service providers and contractors just like AE Smith can help improve culture and reduce risk for all parties concerned.”

About Brightwater Care Group:

The Brightwater Care Group is one of the largest and best known providers of residential accommodation in Western Australia with 23 facilities located from Joondalup to Mandurah. For more information visit

About LASA Victoria:

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) – Victoria is the peak body for aged care in Victoria, and the united voice for providers and other organisations associated with aged and community care. For more information visit

About LASA National Congress:

Australia’s premier networking event for age services, the LASA National Congress is the foremost educational and networking event hosted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the peak body for age service providers. For more information visit