Aged Care Workforce Taskforce and Technology Support Improvements in Aged Care

Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care

The government is taking the care of elderly Australians seriously with the development of the Aged Care Workplace Taskforce, announced on November 1st. It is tasked with developing a wide-ranging workforce strategy, focused on supporting safe, quality aged care for senior Australians.

“Everything is on the table but there are only two things that matter, safety and quality,” Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM, said. Despite reservations from the Australian Nurses & Midwives Federation that frontline professionals had been excluded from the Taskforce, the Minister assured that the Taskforce would consult widely, reaching out to senior Australians and their families, consumer organisations, informal carers, aged care workers and volunteers as well as unions, health professionals, universities and the health, education, employment and disability sectors.

“With Australia’s current aged care staffing needs predicted to grow from around 360,000 currently to almost one million by 2050, workforce issues are vital to the quality ongoing care of older Australians.” he added. New thinking and a strong pathway for professional careers in aged care are outcomes the Minister is keen to see as a result of the Taskforce findings and recommendations.

Meantime a state-of-the-art residential aged care facility in Austral, Western Sydney is leading the way in the use of technology to support residents’ safety and wellbeing.

Opening the John Edmondson VC Gardens centre recently, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM said the innovations would help empower residents and staff.

“Technology will never replace the dedication and service of trusted care and health professionals but it can support them to provide even better and more efficient care,” Minister Wyatt said at the opening, encouraging other aged care facilities to consider using similar innovations.

The new centre, operated by RSL LifeCare, includes:

    • Bedroom laser beam, floor sensor and trip light technology to alert staff
    • Sensors that monitor and report on residents’ locations
    • A smart medication management system to maximise medication safety
    • Access to health specialists through video conferencing
    • A virtual reality social program providing animal therapy through a friendly robotic pet called Seals

My observations of the Aged Care facilities, as I visit and recommend suitable accommodation to my clients, is that many of them have great programs, comfortable and even upmarket accommodation, caring staff and a safe environment but there is a wide range of standards between different facilities.  I, therefore, support any improvements to the care of our elderly citizens, whether through government legislation and guidelines or through innovative initiatives by the facilities themselves.

 

The Picture Of Aged Care In Australia

Jillian Slade with a happy client.

It is fascinating to look at the statistical information gathered about aged care services in Australia. 249,000 (equates to almost a quarter of a million!) people were using these services on 30 June 2016. As I regularly visit aged care facilities on inspections for my clients to find the most suitable facility for their particular needs, many of these statistics are seen as realities to my eyes.

For example, two out three people in aged care are women; ofcourse in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I see this myself. Apparently the reason they outnumber men in aged care services is because on average women live longer and have higher care needs at these older ages. One of the sadder statistics is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in residential care are on average younger than non-Indigenous people. The reason for this may be because of their more complex health needs and shorter life expectancies. Interestingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people only account for 1% of all people in permanent residential aged care and make up 4% of people in home care.

32% of people who are in aged care services were born overseas. This is in direct correlation with migration statistics, with 36% of people aged 65 years and over in Australia having been born overseas. This stat gives clear evidence as to the need for more culturally appropriate services in aged care for this group.

Statistics on respite care in residential care facilities reflect how important these facilities are for respite in remote regions.  Major cities only recorded 2.6% of the people in residential care facilities being there for respite. There was an outward radiating statistic for this group the more remote the facility was, with inner regional being 3.1%, outer regional being 3.6% and remote and very remote being 4.6%.  One assumes this is because there are not many other respite facilities available in these regions.

 

 

 

Government Stats on Aged Care Provision

Statistics now available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paint an interesting picture about aged care services. Statistics on aged care for 2016 indicate that the number of aged care places is increasing, with 1.4 times as many places over the last ten years from 2006 to 2016. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant these stats simply prove what I have already witnessed, the number of elderly people needing aged care is noticeably increasing.

Occupancy rates tell us how close to full capacity the care system is, so it was interesting to note that residential care had the highest occupancy rate for 2015/16 financial year at 92% . Transition care at 88% was next, followed by home care at 83%. Occupancy rates are calculated by adding together the total number of days that all people spent in care during the year, then dividing that number by the total number of places that were available. The stats around occupancy rates for residential aged care is concerning but information that the highest number of builds in the building and construction industry recently has been for aged care residential facilities does give some comfort.

65% of aged care services were run by not-for-profit organisations in 2016. A trend emerged that most of the privately-owned aged care services were in cities whilst in remote areas services were predominantly government run.

Although aged care services can be delivered by any of the following:

  • government organisations,
  • not-for-profit organisations
  • private companies

the Australian Government contributes towards the costs of care for most aged care places. Around 95% of government spending in aged care comes from the Australian Government, with state and territory governments providing 5%.

So, what are the figures?

The governments spent approximately $17 billion on aged care in 2015/16.

69% of this figure was spent on residential aged care.

Expenditure on residential care was 2.7 times that spent on home care and support.

The break up was – $11.5billion on residential care, $4.3 billion on home care and support.

The government recognises that aged care provision is a growing area with an ageing population. In my role wthin the industry, helping people find suitable aged care accommodation, I hope that the required quality and quantity of residential aged care will be provided well into the future.

Driverless Car Will Make Life Easier For The Elderly

Pod Zero Driverless Car

Technology until now has been seen as within the realm of youth, with older Australians being wary of using the latest techno gadgets.  However, the trend is moving toward technology becoming a life changer for elderly people, providing them greater freedoms and connectivity.  We have already discussed some of these improvements, such as video phones and care programs on ipads.  But hold on tight because the lastest application is driverless cars!

A car driven entirely by artificial intelligence is no longer a dream, it’s been developed. Experts say the autonomous car will be safer, resulting in fewer traffic injuries and deaths. The social benefits are great as these driverless cars will give freedom and mobility to those who can’t drive, such as the elderly , those with mobility problems and disabled people.

Aged care and lifestyle provider the IRT Group has formed a partnership to develop driverless car technology in a residential aged care setting.  The idea being that driverless cars will improve residents’ independence and quality of life.  The car model named “Pod Zero” will be programmed to safely navigate the private roads within the IRT communities and residents can hail the cars to travel independently to appointments and activities within their community.

A UK based company, RDM Autonomous, has brought the technology to Australia and is partnering the IRT Group to bring driverless cars to aged care communities for the first time anywhere in the world.  They will present details of the project at the 2017 Information Technology in Aged Care Conference on the Gold Coast 21st to 22nd  November.

I welcome any new technology that can help to make elderly people’s lives safer and easier.  As an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I have the opportunity to see the areas where people with disabling conditions and frailty need more help as I assist my elderly clients and their families to find suitable aged care accommodation. Independent transport is definitely one of those areas. Imagine the freedom people in aged care would experience if they could just hop in a car to visit friends and relatives or attend a medical appointment and be delivered automatically to their destination.

Elderly People Are More Content

Surveys have found that older people tend to be more content than when they were younger, which displaces a fallacy often believed that the elderly are miserable and old age is to be shunned and ignored. I have a lot to do with the elderly in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant and I do all I can to make sure my clients find suitable accommodation in which they can enjoy their later years and find contentment.

New research from Buffalo University and Northwestern University in the USA has shed light on this subject. Claudia Haase, a professor of social policy at Northwestern and one of the study’s authors said  “When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss but a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age.”  The study, published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, shows that one possible reason behind improvements in well-being for the aged is that people become more trusting as they age, which in turn carries a number of benefits for their well-being. In the first study, researchers studied the link between age and trust in a sample of nearly 200,000 people from 83 countries at different points in the past 30 years. A second study followed over 1,200 Americans of different ages (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) over time.

“Trust may benefit well-being because a sense of trust in other people allows us to derive support, comfort and pleasure from our social relationships,” Haase said. “People who trust more are also happier. Moreover, our study shows that people who trust more are not only happier today, but they also experience increases in happiness over time.”

This attitude is well summed up by an elderly, legally blind lady who moved to an Aged Care Home when her carer/husband died and displayed delight at the room, although she couldn’t see it.  She explained “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

This is why I love my job.  It give me pleasure helping people like this find good accommodation with all the services, companionship and care they need to enjoy the rest of their life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Concept For Dementia Aged Care Residence

Artist’s impression Korongee Village

The Netherlands are leaders in innovation in aged care and the dementia village, De Hogeweyk, based there is to be the model for a new residential facility being constructed in Hobart.  The Korongee dementia village in Glenorchy, Hobart will be designed to recreate real-life experiences for people with dementia. The fifteen six-bedroom homes will be set within a small town featuring streets, a supermarket, cinema, café and gardens, with residents wandering freely within a safe and supported environment.

The residents of De Hoeweyk dementia village live longer, eat better and take less medication and it is hoped the same health benefits will be seen in residents at this new Australian facility. The environment within the houses will be more relaxed, with casually-dressed health professionals and residents free to wake up and move about in their own time, free of institutional routines. Residents will live alongside people of like backgrounds, experiences, interests and skills.

A New Zealand aged care provider is also looking at developing a village based on the Hogeweyk design.  They have engaged Aged care specialists Ansell Strategic to undertake a feasibility study for the development of a dementia village in Invercargill. Funding systems and staff-to-resident ratios are among key challenges with the Netherlands model using two carers per resident.  “New Zealand has a similar mixed aged care funding model to Australia, where residents and the government both contribute to the cost of care, said Rosie O’Dowd, assistant analyst “Comparatively, the Netherlands operates under a more tax-financed system, allowing for residential aged care models to be developed based on optimal community modelling rather than a focus on efficiency, scale or aesthetics.”

Korongee village is a partnership between not-for-profit aged care provider Glenview, industry superannuation fund HESTA, social financing organisation Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and the Commonwealth Government. Only many levels, this is the way of the future in Aged Care provision.

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I await, with great optimism, the opening of this new concept in dementia care in 2019.

 

Elderly People Take To Gaming

Using technology is a growing trend amongst the elderly, with a recent national survey showing that 45% of 65s and over now play some sort of video game.  Forget Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto, we are talking Soduku, Words With Friends and Solitaire.  These games are being played by elderly people to keep their minds active, stave off dementia, to de-stress and as a social activity.  Now that so many people have a tablet or some sort of mobile device it is easier to play online games. Another trend is that the age at which people start to play online games is getting older.

Researchers at University College in London are hopeful that a game, Sea Hero Quest, will be used as an early diagnostic tool to detect the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia in the future.  Last year the smartphone app was initiated by Alzheimer’s Research UK, disguised as any other fun mobile game. Their ulterior motive was that by using the game they had an “unprecedented chance to study how many thousands of people from different countries and cultures navigate space,” as decreased spacial awareness is one of the first signs of dementia.

The researchers have now unveiled their incredible findings from its 2.4 million users. This amount of data would normally take about 9,400 years in the lab! The have found a gradual decease in spatial awareness from age 19 to 75, with 46% not being accurate by the age of 75.

As I visit Aged Care Facilities frequently in my role as a Placement Consultant, assisting elderly clients and their families to find suitable aged care accommodation, I am seeing more and more residents coming into facilities with computers and laptops.

Working in the cloud is another term we are all hearing more of and is affecting the operations of aged care facilities. One Aged Care Group, privately owned Aegis in Perth, has deployed the Nutanix enterprise cloud platform to support a new care system that improves care for its 2,500 residents. The aged care group has rolled out 400 tablets connecting to the new care system, so their staff can take notes as they are looking after a resident at the point of care, keeping records more accurate and up to date.