Touching the lives of advanced dementia residents

Driven by a deep desire to enhance the lives of bedbound residents living with advanced dementia, personal care worker, Bryan Barrera applied for the Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia (ARIIA) Innovator Training Program in July 2022.

Bryan recognised he needed ARIIA's support to develop skills in innovation and implementation for his project at his workplace at Eventide Lutheran Homes & Hamilton Village residential aged care. 

Targeting the urgent needs of this vulnerable group, Bryan’s project also aligns with two of ARIIA’s priority areas, combating social isolation and improving the care of individuals with dementia.

“Our bed-bound residents with advanced dementia were experiencing isolation, lack of stimulation and minimal opportunities for human touch. I knew there must be a better way to care for them and improve their quality of life,” said Bryan.

Using skills learned through the Innovator Training Program, Bryan was able to develop an innovative, evidence-based solution informed by the person-centred care elements of the Namaste Care™ Program. He introduced holistic and personalised care plans with integrated sensory elements such as music, lighting, aromatherapy, and physical touch, including gentle hand massages. This created a calm environment for residents with an emphasis on the human touch to improve their quality of life.

“Even though I have some experience in evidence-based practice, the ARIIA Innovator Training Program was extremely helpful in developing my skills, knowledge and confidence to design and implement this project,” said Bryan. During his program training, he also identified the need for his fellow personal care colleagues to make changes. “It was very important for me to build their skills and confidence so that they could also make a difference.”

Despite the challenges of high workloads, limited time, and communication barriers Bryan undertook a small pilot program to demonstrate the effectiveness of a person-centred approach. He focused on quick, timely wins, and met with his colleagues individually to demonstrate how Namaste Care™ techniques could seamlessly integrate into their daily routines.

Following his ARIIA Program training, Bryan has sparked a culture and practice change throughout Eventide home. His knowledge is highly valued, and he has been promoted to a new role and joined a multi-disciplinary team to explore non-medication strategies for resident calmness. He also regularly shares the knowledge and skills he has gained with more of his workmates.


Eventide’s Director of Nursing, Lea Parker lauded Bryan’s efforts. “I always knew that I had a unique staff member in my employ, but I don’t think I or anyone could imagine just what a passion and dedication Bryan had toward his role and caring for residents with dementia, he said.

“Bryan has grown so much during the Innovator Training Program. His unwavering enthusiasm and newfound focus have not only inspired his colleagues but also transformed our approach to care, positively impacting both our staff and our residents.”

“One highlight for me was helping a bedbound resident to participate in Christmas celebrations last year. By supporting him in a personalised way, we were able to transfer him to a wheelchair to sit unattended alongside his wife, and they celebrated together with fellow residents. It was a very special day.”

On a personal level, Bryan is now pursuing a nursing qualification and he is looking forward to working on new projects that support Eventide’s most vulnerable residents. 

Bryan’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of dedication, innovation and a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of those in need.