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.”

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.

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.

Aged Care Service Not Age Friendly

elderly lady at home

Extraordinarily, Australia’s aged home care sector has come under some strong criticism for not being age friendly according to a report from the University of South Australia . Older Australians have been left feeling disempowered and lacking in confidence due to its complexities. Research explored the ability of people aged 65 plus to select and financially manage their home care packages;

“Home-care packages support people to stay in their own homes for longer, so they are a really appealing option for people as they age or become less independent,” said lead researcher, Braam Lowies “But our research found that older people felt insecure about their capacity to manage home-care packages to their best advantage and we wanted to understand why.”

What they found was that, although the government had recently increased total aged care spending to $662 million, including the release of 10,000 additional home-care packages, the environment in which the packages are provided was so complicated that many older Australians were unsure of which options best suit their personal situation.

Clients of mine are currently dealing with this very situation. A 96 year old couple are in need of support, having stayed independent until this year. The husband had a bad fall and is now in a rehabilitation unit and will probably need my help as a placement consultant to find accommodation in an aged care facility. However, his wife is keen to stay at home with support. She has found she needs help from her family to even begin the first step of applying for assistance. Without their support she would not be able to access the service on her own.

“We found a host of problems from a general lack of confidence and lack of knowledge of the system among older people, to overly complicated communications, high staff turnover and inadequately trained staff providing in home care, inconsistencies in package administration, confusing fee structures and even inaccurate billing processes” Dr Lowies said “Unfortunately, the more complicated and inaccessible the programs are, the more it creates a lack of confidence and motivation for older people accessing services.”

The banking and finance industry was also examined in the Financial Capability of Older People report and it came in for criticism too for not being age friendly.

 

ACAT Assessment and Specialist Dementia Care Program

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ACAT Assessment

The Australian Government Department of Health has in recent times received a number of enquiries from providers of aged care about when an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment is required. The department states that “A subsidy cannot be paid to an approved provider for providing care to a person, unless the person is approved under the Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act) as a care recipient.

An ACAT assessment is required if a person is seeking access to aged care services that are funded under the Act, such as:

  • Residential Care
  • Flexible Care in the form of Transition Care or Short-Term Restorative Care
  • Residential Respite Care
  • a Home Care Package. “

 

New Initiative Rollout 2019

One of the Department of Health’s new initiatives – the Specialist Dementia Care Program (SDCP) is beginning to roll out.

This program will provide care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), who are unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream aged care services.

The SDCP will offer specialised, transitional residential support, focussing on reducing or stabilising symptoms over time. I have, at times, been in the position of finding suitable accommodation for people exhibiting behaviour that cannot be managed in the aged care residential service in which they reside. It is a difficult situation and, as an Aged Care Support Consultant, I applaud the introduction of specialist services to accommodate people in this position.

The department has advertised a targeted grant opportunity for a prototype SDCP service, with the next round of 14 SDCP grant opportunities to be advertised early this year. This first phase of specialist dementia care units is expected to be operational in early 2020 with a full rollout in 2022-23. It is expected that there will be at least one specialist dementia care unit (within a broader residential aged care service) operating in each of the 31 Primary Health Networks.

One of the objectives of the SDCP is to generate evidence on best practice care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia that can be adapted for use in mainstream settings to benefit all people with dementia.

Source: Australian Government Department of Health website.

 

Respite Care in Aged Care Facilities

Lady Front Cover shutterstock_151472810

Respect is vital

Caregiving can be a highly demanding and stressful responsibility. Whilst allowing their loved one to remain in the home, it takes a lot of dedication and focus to continue to provide the level of care they require. Sometimes a caregiver needs a break, either a holiday to rest and recuperate from their ongoing responsibilities or due to their own health problems or other matters they need to attend to.

Respite care provides a short-term break for caregivers that can relieve their stress, renew their energy and restore a sense of balance to their lives. It gives them a period of freedom from caregiving duties, knowing their loved ones will continue to receive the care they require in a safe, caring and professional environment.

Another reason an elderly person may go into respite care in an aged care facility is to try out the facility. It gives them an opportunity to experience the high level of professional care, social activities and companionship an aged care home can provide. They will generally only be in respite care for a few weeks and quite often they enjoy their time there so much they ask to move in permanently.

Caregivers commonly use respite care when:

  • They need to travel.
  • They need a break.
  • Their loved one wants a trial for a senior community.
  • Their loved one needs a change of pace.
  • The need to help their loved one ease into permanent senior living.

The term “respite care” is not covered under the NDIS, this has caused stress to some caregivers who need to have a break and whose loved ones are receiving an NDIS package of support. Carers Victoria spoke to the NDIS who assured them they do support carers; their CEO Rob de Luca said “As part of the NDIS, we understand the importance of providing carers with the opportunity like all families to take a break from time to time – to sustain their capacity to provide informal supports to NDIS participants. Supports funded in NDIS plans include Short Term Accommodation (STA), in-home supports, community access and personal care – all of which are designed to support participants and reduce the demands on carers.”

I am an Aged Care Placement Consultant and have seen clients of mine go into respite care either to try it out or to provide their carer with a break and enjoy their time there so much they decide to move to an aged care facility permanently. These people usually transfer very successfully to their new home.