Aged Care Residents’ Communications In The Digital Age

elderly-smartphone

Older adults may be slower in their uptake of internet based technologies, but they are more digitally connected than ever. Tweeting, facetiming and face booking are all popular ways to keep in touch with family, grand kids and friends. As social media has become an ever increasingly important platform for social connections older people are using the medium  more often.

Active social engagement has been shown to be associated with better health and health outcomes across a number of studies over many years. When a person moves into an aged care facility it may be difficult for them to continue their social connections in the physical sense. They may be some distance away from the neighbourhood in which they have lived, they may be unable to travel to maintain relationships. Family visits then become more important, providing social contact and support but geographic distance or work commitments may hinder their ability to make frequent visits.

The possibilities of digital connection to the wider world offer an important avenue for further social connectedness, including connections with family and friends overseas. Aged care facilities are now getting on-board with most providing wifi access to residents. As a Placement Consultant for aged care accommodation, I always check whether wifi is available when sourcing appropriate aged care accommodation as it has become a highly desired criteria, with families asking for wifi. Not all residents wish to take up new technologies, but their families often bring devices when visiting to connect to other family members or friends.

Access to online resources can enhance the well-being of older adults through more frequent social interactions and better access to information. As reported in the Journal of Ageing and Mental Health a small study was done on a group of 80 year old men, with one group learning computer skills and having internet access whilst the control group did other activities. The study found that “Computer and Internet use seems to contribute to older adults’ well-being and sense of empowerment by affecting their interpersonal interactions, promoting their cognitive functioning and contributing to their experience of control and independence.”

Funding to Help Forgotten Australians

aimee-vogelsang-DbJR10fEteE-unsplash-1Forgotten Australians, also known as Care Leavers, are people who were in an orphanage or other institution while a child up until 1989 and experienced either horrendous physical or sexual abuse, or bad care practices. More than 500,000 Australians endured poor living conditions as an institutionalised child. In recognition of their needs $500,000 in funding was provided by the former Minister for Aged Care, Mr Ken Wyatt to South Australian not-for-profit organisation, Helping Hand Aged Care, to develop their guide Real Care The Second Time Around.

Helping Hands believes the funding they have received from the Government will allow for communication and understanding between aged care providers and Forgotten Australians.

Helping Hand Project Manager Diana O’Neil said.“We are hopeful this booklet is the first step in a longer conversation that will lead to influencing policy and practices within the aged care sector.” The guide was released by Helping Hands in February, and recognises choice and control is important but a challenge to Forgotten Australians. Some of the suggestions in the guide include offering care based on choice, transparency and understanding.

To accompany the work from Helping Hand, Flinders University has begun research into the needs of Forgotten Australians to create tangible recommendations for aged care facilities.

Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health recently acquired a $50,000 Strategic Research Grant from the Australian Association of Gerontology and the Flinders Foundation, to explore the health impacts, needs, preferences, barriers and experiences of the Forgotten Australians moving into aged care or accessing aged care services.

Monica Cations, Flinders University Research fellow and Chief Investigator of the Forgotten Australians study, will be leading the study with the findings and recommendations to be released next year in March/April.

Ms Cations says, “Aged care is really terrifying for people that were raised in these types of environments. The concept of being re-institutionalised is terrifying for a lot of people. We need to understand and explore what are the other options. Because a lot of aspects of general aged care can be really unsafe for people who have experienced traumatic childhoods or institutionalisation as children. But we don’t know a lot about what exactly needs to change to meet their needs.”

Forgotten Australians from South Australia will be interviewed to develop recommendations for aged care facilities to implement. The research team report they were overwhelmed by the amount of Forgotten Australians wanting to participate.

Thanks to the Aged Care Guide website.

The Rise of Robots in Aged Care

Robots in care

The rise of technology has led to it being used increasingly in health and aged care settings. Infra-red vein finders, nurse-specific smart devices and various monitoring tools are being introduced on wards whilst Skype and iPads and other devices are helping to keep families connected to loved ones who are in aged care. And across the world we are seeing the rise of robots in care.

Lamson, a robot currently being used in residential care in Melbourne, delivers medicine and meals, takes laundry and can even use lifts. I met this robot recently when visiting a newly built aged care facility, Trinity Manor,in Greensborough that opened its doors to residents in May this year. As a Placement Consultant, helping find suitable aged care for clients, I have the privilege of visiting new aged care facilities to assess their suitability for my clientele and I have to confess this was the first time I had seen such a robot in action.

These robots will become more common. The latest innovation are telepresence robots which are controlled by a remote user, in the case of Lamson it was staff, but many used in other places are actually controlled by family members of the resident. A study of these robots in Finland found that for the elderly, telepresence provides benefits over non-mobile video connections as they can interact with it in a more natural manner. The robots also help the elderly to feel secure, as they feel that their relatives or carers can keep an eye on them virtually and interact with them.

Griffith University has been using social robots to interact with people with dementia, and a new start-up out of Sydney has been experimenting with robots that can help patients take their medicine.

Ikkiworks’ new robot, ikki, is part companion, part clinician. Trialled primarily with children living with cancer, ikki can take the temperature of a patient, as well as identify medication and alert the patient if the medication is incorrect. What a boon that would be for elderly people that forget to take their medication. Ikkiworks plan to develop the robot so it could eventually be used in aged care, providing companionship whilst monitoring health.

Wendy Moyle from Griffith University sees the next innovation in robot technology being the development of assistive robots integrated with smart homes, assisting elderly adults to stay home longer.“These are multifunctional robots that are voice activated, can assist a person with activities of daily living, monitor wellbeing and report wellbeing to healthcare professionals and family and can virtually connect the person.” she said.

We are certainly living in the technological age and it’s encouraging to see how these developing technologies can help our ever growing aged population to enjoy better care.

Participants Can Register Online for Dementia Studies

Interesting face

Were you aware that dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia? More research is needed to better understand this insidious disease and its effects upon an ageing population. However, finding willing people for trials and research can be difficult for academics with a preliminary review of the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry finding that of terminated dementia clinical trials, three in five ceased due to recruitment difficulties.

Now a new website has been developed that matches participants and researchers. Using a similar approach as dating apps participants are matched to researchers based on features that academics need for their studies, such as age, location and diagnosis. The site is called Stepup for Dementia Research. Its program director is Yun-Hee Jeon.

Jeon has seen trials fail first hand and believes that the stigma surrounding dementia is hindering recruitment, hurting those who need help the most.“In my own experience I have seen trials delayed by over a year and budgets blown out due to an inability to find the right research participants. StepUp for Dementia Research is set to change this,” she said.

StepUp for Dementia Research is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health under the Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund. It is delivered by the University of Sydney and was developed in partnership with the University of Exeter and University College London.

When researchers register their studies, they define the kind of people they’re looking for and the StepUp for Dementia Research system matches that description to the information provided by registered volunteers. Researchers can only see participants’ details that match their criteria. If they deem a registered participant is suitable they will contact them direct to explain the research and ask if they would like to participate.

Anyone over the age of 18 can register, whether living with dementia or not. Health and aged care providers are encouraged to refer suitable people to the website and a range of promotional materials, such as brochures and posters will soon be distributed by Sydney University.

Jane Thompson was a carer for her husband Alan who had Alzheimer’s. She found the experience very challenging and difficult and now advocates for more research into dementia. She said “I would really encourage people to participate in research studies – and also to consider contributing to the research process more broadly to help ensure that the focus is on areas most likely to impact the lives of whom the research is about.”

For more information call 1800 – STEP – 123 (1800-7837-123) or email stepup.research@sydney.edu.au or visit the website.

 

Thanks to Aged Care Insite.  Listen to their interview with Yun-Hee Jeon.

Meeting Residents’ Expectations in Aged Care Homes

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I find  clients always ask me about two main issues. The first is staff ratios, which has become a hot topic in aged care. This is a difficult question to answer since the introduction of Ageing In Place, because most Aged Care Homes now have a mixture of high and low needs and staff numbers are rostered according to care needs and work load at any given time. I find the most helpful question to ask of an aged care facility is the availability of Registered Nurses on each shift, including overnight, as well as the availability of Doctors on weekends and overnight.

The second most often asked question is about the quality of food, which is another big issue in aged care homes.  I can understand why it’s so important. Apart from the nutritional value, food plays a major role in the daily life of a resident. The anticipation of meals is an important focus and having a good feed leaves them satisfied. Everyone enters a home anticipating the food will be up to standard and palatable; some are disappointed at the quality, while others find the meals delicious.

Earlier in my career when I worked in Aged Care Facilities I was amused that it was often the people who had lived alone surviving on toast or crumpets who complained the most about the food. I would hear the complaints the Chef received and they were often contradictory, some thought the soup too hot, some too cold, some found the gravy too thick, some too thin. I realised how difficult it was to deliver meals for such a large and diverse population, also taking into account medical conditions, and still please everyone. I can assure you there are many residents who do enjoy their food.

In my experience, the people who choose to enter residential aged care and embrace their new lifestyle thrive and are mostly content. It is a big challenge for providers of aged care facilities to meet the expectations of residents and their families. I seek aged care facilities for my clients that suit their needs and will deliver quality service.

 

 

New Aged Care Facility in Greensborough

 

Trinity Manor Greensborough frontAs an aged care Placement Consultant I am, at times, invited to visit new aged care facilities prior to their opening. Recently I was invited to visit Trinity Manor Greensborough to view the facility before it opened its doors to residents yesterday (16th May, 2019).

Trinity Manor Greensborough reception

There are 112 beds, including 12 in the Memory Support section for those living with dementia needing a secure and safe environment.  They offer these residents a specialist dementia care support program. All residents have access to care by qualified registered division 1 nurses, available 24 hours.

The chef prepared a lovely lunch for me so that I could sample the standard of meals that will be served to the residents. They will have a plentiful supply of food throughout the  Trinity Manor Greensborough meal

day, with a continental and hot breakfast followed by a main meal at lunch with offerings such as Rogan Josh, roast leg of pork with apple sauce, crumbed fish and beef and shiraz pie served with a varied range of vegetables daily followed by desserts such as mango panna cotta and apple strudel. A soup is served in the evening followed by a light meal and dessert. Cakes, devonshire tea or biscuits are served at morning and afternoon tea and supper.

It was intriguing to see a robot in action in an aged care facility; its role is to take the load from carers and kitchen staff. Able to deliver to rooms and various departments, the robot accesses the lift to reach different floors.

Trinity Manor Greensborough robot 2

The robot stops when a resident is near and plays music as it goes along. In my role as a Placement Consultant I have to confess this is the first time I’ve seen a robot in aged care. The facility is using the Lamson Robo, which is easily operated with an IOS mobile app, allowing the operator to call and send the robot via a mobile device. Whilst I was visiting they were mapping the building with the robot. The new residents will be involved in naming the robot, with a competition for its name.

The facility has many great features, with a hairdresser,

Trinity Manor Greensborough haridresser

massage room, gymnasium, cinema,

 

private dining rooms for family meals, outdoor bar b q, multiple dining and lounge areas and balconies and terraces off rooms. The décor and furniture is all modern and tasteful.

Is The Banking Sector Age Friendly?

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Image by Andreas Breitling

Following on from my last blog Aged Care Services Not Age Friendly (12th April 2019 ) in which I wrote about the Financial Capability of Older People report by the University of SA, examining how the aged in home care and the banking and finance industries were not age friendly, this blog will look at the banking and finance sector. This sector came in for criticism too for not being age friendly, with researchers finding older people faced numerous problems in their financial dealings. This ranged from having trouble understanding foreign voices at overseas call centres and reading tiny print on documents to complicated terms and condition, poor communications by staff and high pressure sales techniques.

The researchers believe both the in home care and finance/banking sectors were in need of an age-friendly revamp with more older-customer focussed services and better staff training.

So it is encouraging to read an article from the Canberra Times that Alzheimer’s Australia has begun rolling out “dementia-friendly” banks with a pilot program beginning in Beyond Bank branches across Canberra.

The bank has begun making changes to its physical environment, considering things like colours, lighting, signage and even the type of fonts it uses to make the branch environment less intimidating. Staff will receive special training to learn about the various obstacles those living with dementia face when doing their daily banking.

Beyond Bank state manager Chris Blight said they wanted to make it easier for people with dementia to stay independent.”We’re working towards having really clean spaces and that welcoming personal tailored solution to help them access their funds,” he said.

The full report The Financial Capability of Older People can be read at: unisabusinessschool.edu.au/financial-capability