Aged Care As the Population Ages

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It’s a great outcome in health terms that Australians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. But this presents certain challenges with an increasing ageing population. The baby boomers, those born just after the second world war, are now ageing, with the first of them turning 65 in 2011. As a result in 2017 3.8 million Australians were in the 65 and over age range. This represented 15 per cent of the population. By 2050, 1.8 million people will be over the age of 85.

At the same time we have a decline in fertility rates, with the number of children per woman falling from 3.5 to 1.8.

Healthcare

Naturally, health care is going to become a high priority as the population continues to age. According to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, demand for health services rise upon a person reaching their 70s, with the need for aged care services increasing further when they reach the age of 80.

There is a movement away from hospital care to at-home support services. People would much rather be treated and looked after within their own home than spend lengthy periods of time in hospital. It is also a more cost effective method of providing adequate health care to the elderly. So, in terms of primary care costs this is an improvement. However, the system needs re-evaluation to keep up with demand.

Aged care facilities will still be needed for people with high demand needs, such as 24 hour care. Ensuring they are managed and staffed to a level that the community finds acceptable is of utmost importance. I know from my experience as a Placement Consultant that there are many very well run aged care facilities that meet expectations, but there are those that do not. I scrupulously research facilities for my clients and follow up with them to ensure they and their families are satisfied.

We must aim for a standard across the board that provides excellent care and respect for our elderly. After all they paved the way for the rest of us to live in such a privileged society.

Behind The Scenes of The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

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A recent interview by Aged Care Insite with Professor Susan Kurrle, director of the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre at the University of Sydney, who worked on the recent ABC documentary The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, provides some interesting insights to the program. (Photo from Aged Care Insite)

This experiment is the first of its kind conducted in Australia and Professor Kurrle believes the implications of this successful trial could be huge. The ABC show follows the progress of a group of aged care residents taking part in structured activities with a group of pre-schoolers who visit their aged care home on a regular basis.

The resident-to-resident relationship building that has arisen as a result of the experiment has obvious benefits to health, Professor Kurrle said. It was a surprise side effect of the experiment and those relationships have continued in a healthy way. Some residents felt quite lonely and isolated prior to the trial.

Allowing young children day-to-day contact with their elders can also combat ageism she said. The children who took part also benefited growing in their confidence and interactions and developing of empathy. One particularly touching moment was when one young child, whose parents described him as a “soft soul”, showed empathy for a depressed resident who was not participating or speaking and had his eyes closed, by going up to him and being with him, drawing the resident out until he broke into a beaming smile.

This experiment was the first time that structured activities were used to encourage interactions between the children and adults as they worked together to achieve particular goals. Other intergenerational programs with pre schoolers have not been structured in this way, with the children simply playing side by side with the residents. Professor Kurrle pointed out that humans are pack animals and crave the companionship of family. For residents whose families are far away or unable to visit life can become lonely. This program allowed them the opportunity to interact with young children, as they would with their grand children. The health benefits were proven by standardised health tests before and after the program.

Professor Kurrle assured the interviewer that the children weren’t encouraged by producers on the show to behave in certain ways to develop the story. All behaviour on the show was spontaneous. The only people in the room were the participants, the instructor and some of her assistants to help with the children. The cameras and microphones were hidden.

Suggestions coming out of the success of the program about how to do more intergenerational programs in aged care facilities include encouraging playgroups to set up their activities within aged care facilities. Another was for aged care providers to consider building childcare facilities within their buildings when building a new facility or upgrading an existing one.

Trailer for the ABC program

 

The Matter of Your Will

Will

I am an aged care Placement Specialist and I have an 84 year old client right now who is fighting for a fair share of the proceeds from the house he shared with his wife so he can afford to go into and aged care facility to be cared for. Unfortunately for him they decided many years ago to put the house in his wife’s name so it would not be affected if the business he was running ran into difficulties.  They had mirror wills to protect him. A year ago his wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness and her estranged son came back into her life. When she passed on a new will came to light, in which her husband is disadvantaged.

Although this is a complex case, it made me think about how people could be adversely affected if there was no will at all. Sadly if you don’t have a legally binding will your wishes may not be followed, and the distribution of your estate may become one great bun-fight

This may end up costing a fortune in legal fees and cause more heart-ache to your already grieving family, yet many people put off making a will, which can ensure their wishes are met and bring peace of mind to themselves and those they love.

When making a will it is generally advised to use a Lawyer or the Trustee and Guardian in your state rather than make a DIY will, especially if you have substantial assets or your wishes are complex. It is also important to remember to have your will updated if there are any changes to your wishes or assets. So, now you have your will, what do you do with it?

Keeping it at home can be problematic as it may be difficult to find and there is the risk of it being destroyed by fire, tampered with or stolen. A safety deposit box you would think a good option, but it can be almost impossible for family to get hold of if they don’t have legal access to the box.  Storing it with your Lawyer is another option, but it can be lost in transition if the business is sold or the Lawyer dies, although legally they have an obligation to ensure all documents are transferred to another law firm.

The State Trustees of Victoria have set up the Victorian Will & Powers of Attorney Registry, a free initiative where anyone in Victoria can register information about the location of their will and powers of attorney documents safely or physically store their original documents with them.

The Registry will help Executors and Attorneys find documents with ease, ensuring your wishes are acted upon when the time comes. Their website states “These documents are your voice and it is essential to safeguard them securely rather than leave them to chance.”

More information about Jillian Slade

A New Test To Tackle Falls in The Elderly

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Older people fear having a fall, more than a bag snatch or a home invasion, according to Professor Stephen Lord, a senior principal fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia at the launch of a new screening test for falls, a collaboration between NeuRA and the aged care company, the Mark Moran Group. He stated that the reason they fear this so much is it is often the precursor to losing their independence. Once an elderly person goes to the Emergency Department of a hospital as a result of a fall and into the hospital system, they are often assessed as being unable to continue caring for themselves, resulting in them moving to an aged care facility.

Research shows one in three people over 65 will have one or more falls every year. At that rate the number of new hospitals will have to increase at a rapid rate to cope with falls related injuries.

Professor Lord stated that the cost of falls to the economy is greater than any other injury, including car crashes.

If a fall is serious, 43 per cent of people aged 70 or older who have one will be admitted to hospital. Currently, falls account for 250,000 hospital bed days every year, and will rise to 450,000 by 2050. Of those who are hospitalised, about 10 per cent will move to an aged care facility for the first time.

The new screening test, launched this week, can predict with 75 per cent accuracy the risk of someone over 60 having a fall – and recommend ways to prevent one. The kit, FallScreen +, has nine assessments. These relate to general wellbeing, including pain and mental health; regular exercise; executive function (which includes ability to assess and negotiate hazards in an unfamiliar place), and eyesight, including ability to see light and shade (which helps to avoid trip hazards).

The kit will be trialled at aged care facilities owned by the Mark Moran Group, and will also be released as an app pitched at those who work in aged care, including physiotherapists, psychologists and others. A simplified test is being developed for general practitioners.

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I highly recommend that elderly people have a future plan in place so that if they do have a fall or several falls and find themselves in a situation where they can no longer stay safely in their home, they have a plan B ready to go. If they have developed a plan, they are in a position of having more choice and being able to move to a facility that suits their needs, tastes and location. This can make a big difference to the outcome; it can be a positive move.

Some facts taken from Julie Power’s Sydney Morning Herald article published Aug 27 2019.

Benetas The Views At Heidelberg Wins MBA Award

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To have an Aged Care Facility’s builder receive the Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV) Excellence in Construction of Commercial Buildings $20M-30M is a break-through in aged care residential design. The Benetas The Views at Heidelberg 103-bed, state-of-the-art, apartment-style living residence in Melbourne’s North East opened in October 2018, and was designed to support the industry-leading Benetas Best Life Model of Care. Creating a genuine household environment, each apartment has its own kitchen, lounge and dining areas with residents having their own private room with an ensuite.

Benetas CEO Sandra Hills OAM, said the win was well deserved “ADCO Constructions did a fantastic job on The Views, which was a really important development for Benetas,” she said. “It was our first building constructed from the ground up to accommodate the Best Life Model of Care and ADCO exceeded our expectations.”

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ADCO Constructions Senior Design Manager, Glen Blamey, said the company was thrilled with the win.

The Views at Heidelberg will shortly celebrate its first year since last year’s launch with positive feedback on the Best Life Model of Care and the building itself. I was fortunate to visit the newly built facility last year, having been invited in my role as a Placement Consultant and was impressed by the quality and style of building and fittings, as well as the concept of care.

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Of the thirteen aged care apartments, each has seven or eight residents who are supported and encouraged to continue pursuing their hobbies and interests through a lively activities program with a happy hour, bus tours, fitness programs and movie screenings. Facilities also include a café and sports bar,

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wellness centre/day spa, hairdressing salon, arts and crafts room, cinema and library.

Being an Aged Care Placement Consultant I visit many aged care homes and it is encouraging to see innovative styles of aged care being adopted.

 

Aged Care Residents’ Communications In The Digital Age

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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.