Scientific Anti-Ageing Research May Reverse Need For Aged Care

In our rapidly changing society we could go from the present situation where aged care facilities are the biggest construction growth sector to not needing aged care facilities at all! With the recent news that Australian scientists have helped turn back the body clock for elderly mice and their hope of producing an anti-ageing pill for humans, everything could change. Their findings were reported in the Cell journal and Sydney Morning Herald this week

In a five-year study where the elderly mice became as fit and as strong as the younger ones, scientists from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of New South Wales fed a compound to elderly mice that increased muscular blood flow, enhanced physical performance and endurance.  The compound called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) is a form of vitamin B3 that is naturally produced by the body.

The study’s lead author Dr Abhirup Das, anti-ageing researcher at the University of NSW, explained that “NMN can make the old cells healthy, and it can increase capillaries and blood flow.”  This is very important, because as people age, their body largely stops building capillaries and blood flow slows down. Cells are starved of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in weakness and frailty. The best way to slow this process is by exercising but the body’s response to exercise declines with age.  This is where the compound comes in; it is virtually exercise in a pill.

Past attempts at producing an anti-ageing pill failed as the compounds used had to pass through the digestive system, which broke it down before it could be effective. The MNM compound converts to something called NAD+ which doesn’t go through the digestive system. Human trials have shown that this compound is safe for consumption. Later this year more human trials will test its effectiveness in the human body.

Currently I am immersed in helping elderly people and their families to find the most suitable and comfortable residence for their golden years when it’s apparent they need a higher level of care than their present circumstance provides. I take great care to investigate the best possibilities for my clients and sometimes even negotiate a better deal for them in their selected aged care facility.  However, I would happily give away my career if this pill becomes widely available and reverses the effects of ageing. It would be wonderful to see my clients and other elderly people enjoying a younger, fit body to carry them through their later years, staying at home and remaining independent.

 

National Plan to Address Elder Abuse

Following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission Report on Elder Abuse handed down in June 2017 a national plan to offset elder abuse is currently being developed by federal and state governments.  Nationally consistent laws to respond to elder abuse are among the key goals that also include:

  • promoting the autonomy and agency of older people;
  • addressing ageism and promoting community understanding of elder abuse;
  • safeguarding at-risk older people and improving responses;
  • building the evidence basis.

I have spoken about elder abuse in past blogs.  Due to my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I work closely with elderly people and their families and have, at times, been aware of this taking place. so I was pleased to see the ALRC report and recommendations delivered last year.  The development of a national plan from these recommendations, that is expected in draft version by the end of this year, will be very welcome.

Attorney-General Christian Porter stated at the recent National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney that the national plan would bring government, business and community stakeholders together to properly address this critical issue. He told the audience that addressing elder abuse was not just a legal issue so attorneys-general would work together with ministers from health, community services and other portfolios to develop the plan; in consultation with the community sector, seniors, business and financial sectors.

Meanwhile Victoria is the first state to develop its own action plan, launched this February. The Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria was developed by the National Ageing Research Institute, supported by Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of Public Advocate and community service providers. It sets out 10 priorities to address elder abuse:

  • Clarify the relationship between family violence and elder abuse.
  • Raise community awareness of elder abuse and promote a positive image of older people to reduce ageism.
  • Increase availability of “older person centred” alternatives to disclosing elder abuse.
  • Standardise tools for recognising abuse and develop and implement a common framework for responding to elder abuse.
  • Increase availability of family (elder) mediation services including for people living in rural areas and CALD communities.
  • Provide education and training on elder abuse for all health professionals in health and aged care services.
  • Improve data and increase evaluation.
  • Clarify whether carer stress is a risk factor for elder abuse.
  • Improve understanding and response to elder abuse in CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Improve housing options for both perpetrators and victims of elder abuse.

Meeting Residents’ Expectations in Aged Care Homes

Featured

One of the biggest challenges for providers of Aged Care Facilities is meeting the expectations of residents and their families. From my perspective, as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I perceive that many families expect their loved ones to receive one on one attention 24/7.  Of course, this is unrealistic as sometimes the other residents will need the attention of the staff. This can’t be helped in accommodation where there are a number of residents with varying levels of care needs to be met.

Clients always ask me about 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. 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 quality of food is the other big issue in Aged Care Homes and I 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. And, like anything else, those who look for the bad will always find it and will probably never be happy.

Aged Care Future Planning Paid Off

Caroline and Billy

Last week I wrote a blog about future planning for aged care. For Billy and Caroline it paid off. With my help they planned for the day they would move to an aged care facility. Caroline and Billy received an offer from their chosen facility last week, and have gladly accepted it.

Initially they were hesitant to consider moving from their home, despite encouragement to plan for this from both their family and doctor. When I was referred to them in April/May last year they decided to explore the possibilities with my help. Caroline had concerns for the short term that she may need to go to hospital and her husband Billy cannot be left on his own. In the long term they wanted to be together and share a suite. I recommended they get their financials in order so they would be prepared, and referred them to a Financial Planner.  We decided to begin searching in their local area for suitable accommodation.

They continued to manage reasonably well at home with services and assistance from their family until late last year when Caroline needed hospitalisation for a few days. Interim care was arranged for Billy at home but when Caroline had complications and had to stay in hospital longer, I found emergency respite for Billy in one of the homes we had initially visited.  The family were very pleased with the care Billy received but for Caroline it was not the facility where she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

Once Caroline and Billy returned home, she called a family meeting, which I attended, and informed her family that she had decided that it was time for her and Billy to make the transition to permanent residential care. She felt that, should there be another crisis, she did not want this undue pressure put on her family again. They had decided on Kew Gardens Aged Care, so I contacted the facility and asked for their application to be moved from waiting to urgent. Within two months a suite became available. They chose the Kew Gardens aged care facility because it is right across the road from their present home and they already have friends residing there.  Set on the edge of beautiful Kew Gardens, it is aptly named and has a pleasing outlook. They will move shortly. I am so pleased that this transition will be far less stressful for them ,due to their taking action and forward planning. I was happy to assist them in their planning and take pride in doing the best for my clients.

Future Plan Is The Best Way To Care For Parents on The “Tightrope of Aging”

Modern facility lounge

Making the decision to move from the home that you know and in which you have invested so much of yourself is always difficult, no matter at what stage of life you make it.  When you are elderly and no longer capable of caring for yourself it is even more so. There are so many emotional reactions to the idea – reluctance to leave the comfort of your own home, sadness at leaving behind friends or family, fear of an unknown environment, not wanting to be a burden and shame at no longer being able to care for yourself. A book called “Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging” by Melanie P Merriman published late last year explores the difficulties faced by two daughters whose ageing mother is fiercely independent and does not want “to be a burden” to her children. They enter a tug of war where their mother fights for her independence whilst they fight for her safety.

The ultimate conclusion Melanie draws is that the discussion about her mother’s future needs and the best way to meet them should have been held early on and a future plan decided upon with all parties in agreement. She realised too late that trying to adhere to her mother’s desire “not to be a burden” actually caused the problems that did become burdensome to Melanie and her sister.

Being at the coalface of this type of situation myself, as an Aged Care Placement Specialist, I often see how difficult the decision to move a parent to an aged care facility can be. Trying to find a suitable place at short notice when a parent has a serious fall or their health seriously deteriorates is very stressful. I strongly advocate that families discuss their elderly parent’s future needs with them in an honest and open way before a crisis occurs. Setting up a future plan for elderly parents in which they feel empowered and involved in the decision making will reduce a great deal of stress if the time comes when they need the added level of care that an aged care facility can provide.

With the depth of knowledge I have of the different aged care facilities, current legislation and the processes involved, I have been able to assist people to set up their future plans. It is always my pleasure to help people find the best option for their later years, where they will feel at home and enjoy their lifestyle.

Times Changing in Aged Care

An Aged Care Facility

The times are certainly a-changing when it comes to aged care accommodation. There were so many horror stories in the media in the past about aged care facilities that the industry has undergone a major shake-up. The government stepped in to close down some facilities and have improved the standards for accreditation for aged care accommodation to ensure our elderly are properly cared for.  I love to assist those looking for aged care accommodation as I seek and find the most suitable facilities for my clients.

These days there are more and more facilities being built and they are very different from those of the past, with hotel standard suites, cafes, private dining rooms and decent wifi to ensure residents can stay connected to their families. Facilities are also beginning to offer expanded life experiences to offset the risks of an institutionalised environment.

One new facility nestled in the foothills of the Gold Coast Hinterland, Carinity Cedarbrook, overlooks a farm with horses and cattle. Carinity’s thirty one hectare site is being used by nearby Southport Boy’s School for science and agricultural classes.The plan is that residents will interact with the students and animals and over time activities will increase to include beekeeping and community gardening. Other facilities offer inter-generational playgroups on a regular basis, usually fortnightly or monthly.

Parents bring their babes and young toddlers along to interact with the residents, taking part in musical, dance, art and story telling together.The children appreciate the interaction with the residents, especially those who don’t have regular access to their own grandparents.The residents in turn are often rejuvenated by the interaction with the very young and the music and activities often bring back fond memories. Staff report that, in particular, those living with dementia are often more engaged and energised by these experiences.

For older adults, programs reduce isolation and create a sense of purpose, including for those living with dementia. And for children the benefits include psychological and social development. Professor Anneke Fitzgerald of Griffith University is doing a feasibility study into demand for inter-generational playgroups in aged care facilities with a possible outcome that it will become government policy.

 

 

Improving the Experience of LGBTI People in Aged Care

It is encouraging to see the government moving toward improved aged care services for Australian Seniors. As the government engages with the aged care sector on the development of longer-term reform, they are already taking steps to help improve the experience of elderly LGBTI people entering aged care facilities.

The department’s website MyAgedCare now has a range of resources for providers to help them better accommodate the needs of LGBTI people.  They incude:

  • A 24 minute educational video on LGBTI inclusiveness in aged care
  • A consumer factsheet providing an overview of aged care services available and how to access them, specifically for the LGBTI community
  • A brochure with ‘10 questions to ask about LGBTI needs in residential aged care’.

These resources can be downloaded from the department’s website.

I have written in previous blogs about the difficulties faced by LGBTI people entering aged care facilities. Some sad stories reflect on the lack of understanding of their needs, such as facilities that would not recognize a person’s chosen gender rather than that shown on their birth certificate. Imagine being born male, then bravely living your life as a woman only to be made to live as a man and use male facilities in your old age upon entering aged care accommodation. As an advocate for the elderly, in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I have met people who have had to face these difficulties.

I therefore embrace the stance taken by the government to improve the experience of LGBTI people entering an aged care facility.  I sincerely hope that Australian aged care facilities will continue to improve their understanding and so provide the right support and appropriate accommodation to elderly residents within this group.