This Year in The Aged Care Sector

Arcare Templestowe lounge

The year 2019 has been a very important one for the aged care sector. I am an Aged Care Placement Consultant and have shared many of the issues, developments and opinions that are helping to shape the future of aged care in Australia.

Developments in the treatment of dementia have featured quite prominently. In January the Specialist Dementia Care Program (SDCP) was beginning to roll out. Offering specialised, transitional residential support for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), which focuses on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time, the program will provide care for those who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged care services. The first specialist units are scheduled to be operational in 2020, with a further roll out in 2021-23.

Assistive technologieswere being developed through the year. One example is a prototype called DRESS to help people with dementia dress themselves. The carer initiates the dress sequence via a mobile device and the recorded voice prompts the person to dress themselves, correcting mistakes. Japan is heading to a workforce crisis in numbers with a rapidly aging population, so the government is encouraging the use of technology in aged care. An example is a robotic device that helps frail residents get out of bed and into a wheelchair or ease them into bathtubs.

And talking robots, I met my first robot in May this year, Lamson, when visiting a newly built aged care facility, Trinity Manor in Greensborough. It delivers medicine and meals, takes laundry and can even use lifts. Also, Griffith University has been using social robots to interact with people with dementia.

Ikkiworks has developed a robot called Ikki, who is a companion and a clinician and will eventually be used in aged care. Ikki can take a patient’s temperature and identify medication and alert the patient if the medication is incorrect.

Another approach to dementia care is the Montessori Inspired Lifestyle ® (MIL) developed by Dr. Cameron Camp. “Within this new paradigm, abilities, interests, and preferences will be respected, encouraged and maximized. Providing choice throughout the day is central to all interactions. Central to MIL is the creation of meaningful activities and social roles within the context of a community.” said Dr. Camp.

The aged care workforce was a subject that kept coming up, particularly the need for more nurses to be on call within facilities. I reported on an interesting study by Adelaide University published in April 2018 into the attraction and retention of staff to aged care. There were many reasons why working in the sector was attractive but the perception of this work as low level and underpaid was a negative.

In defence of the work Melanie Mazzarolli, Regional Business Manager, Residential Services at Benetas wrote in an article about the privilege of supporting someone on their journey to death, similar to supporting birth, and that relationships can be formed over long periods, rarely matched in other nursing roles. She also mentioned the passion of those employed in this sector. With the increase in the aging population more workers will be needed in the sector but finding and retaining them will be an ongoing challenge.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care was prevalent on the news for much of the year and painted a very negative picture of the sector. Clearly improvements across the sector are needed and a statement by the AMA this month spoke of using technologiesto assist meet the demands for care for the elderly. These technologies are already being developed and support for more development is needed.

Ending on a bright note the touching and beautifully produced documentary series The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds aired on ABC in August and September took a look at an experiment in an intergenerational program. This experiment is the first of its kind conducted in Australia with structured activities used to encourage interactions between the children and adults as they worked together to achieve particular goals. Health measurements were taken before and after the program and showed positive outcomes. Professor Susan Kurrle, who oversaw the program, believes the implications of this successful trial could be huge.

I look forward to a more positive focus on aged care in 2020, with improvements and developments that will assist the sector to deliver a high level of quality care to all our older residents.

AMA Calls For Innovation In Aged Care

japanese robotics

As we draw to the end of a year in which the aged care sector was put under the microscope during the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, it is time to take a deep breath and consider how to improve the operations of aged care facilities moving forward. I am a Placement Consultantand assist my clients to find suitable aged care accommodation so I am always inspecting aged care facilities and keep a close eye on their operations. It was with great interest I saw the Australian Medical Association President, Dr Tony Bartone, has recently issued a statement in which he said the Royal Commission had uncovered an aged care system plagued by “rigid conformity and an absence of innovation”.

He states “Innovation is vital to improve the level of care provided, to deliver consumer-centred care, and enable the sustainability of the aged care system. ”

The position statement contains six principles:

Resourcing

Electronic records

Medication management

Assistive technology

Communication

Data

The AMA is calling for more investment in assistive technologies, citing wearable sensors, virtual reality testing and smartphones have assisted with monitoring functionality in older people and detecting falls. “Monitoring technologies provide opportunities for longer independent living of older people, a better focused and personalised care in both home care and residential aged care settings,” it says. Also highlighted was the need for clear data privacy guidelines around sensor-based monitoring technology, wearable sensors and implantable technologies.

Due to the frequency with which older people move between aged care, primary care and acute care settings electronic record keeping and information exchange between care settings is crucial. “Interoperability between My Health Record, My Aged Care, and clinical software systems would enable electronic health record sharing between the health and aged care systems,” the position statement says. Communication technologies such as telehealth can enhance access to GP services, further improving health care access.

Looking at more resourcing for technological innovation the position statement says “Investment in innovation is needed to ensure that mainstream developments are accessible to all those accessing aged care services, not just those who can afford them.” The AMA stresses that this technology should not replace human care and engagement, confirming that “Adequate staffing numbers and appropriate mix of care staff skills is a continuous resourcing requirement in aged care.”

 

 

Read the full AMA position statement here.

 

 

 

 

 

Aged Care As the Population Ages

Bluecross Box Hill-06

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.