Roller Coaster Ride Placement in Aged Care

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Since earlier in the year when Covid-19 made its way to Australia it’s been a roller coaster ride in my job as a Placement Consultant for Aged Care Accommodation. In Melbourne all went quiet with families tending to keep their loved ones at home during the original lockdown in March and April and then it got very busy when restrictions were lifted in mid May. I was suddenly fielding multiple enquiries and arranging tours again as most aged care facilities had recommenced showing their homes to potential residents. They had also relaxed the isolation period for residents entering care on either a permanent or respite basis. Then lockdown restrictions were again enforced on 9th July.

Up To Date Information

Gathering information for my clients about care and fees for each aged care facility and arranging tours (when available) has became more labour intensive as each facility has different procedures for touring and admissions during these restrictions.  As the health restrictions change so do the facilities’ procedures, making it an ongoing task. For prospective residents it is very difficult to navigate and they rely on my gathering the correct information and providing advice.

Of course they wonder if the different procedures will guarantee that they will be safer and less likely to catch Covid-19. It is very difficult to assess the likely outcome between the different procedures in each facility. One can only make an educated guess based on the Health Experts’ advice.

More Seeking Aged Care Accommodation

During this second lockdown I am finding there is a big difference in the number of enquiries I am receiving from families needing to place their loved ones in aged care. I think families held off from having their loved ones admitted to an aged care home during the first wave, and now that we have a second wave they can’t continue to hold out until we are Covid-free, as there is no knowing how long it will be.

However, with such a large developing number of aged care homes in Victoria reporting cases of Covid-19, clients who had chosen their new home last week are now questioning whether it is safer to stay at home until aged care homes are clear of the virus.

Screening Process 

All aged care homes have a similar screening process for residents before entering a home. Everyone must show evidence of a current flu vaccination, submit to a temperature check and answer questions relating to general health and whether they’ve had contact with someone who might have Covid-19.

Restrictions on Touring Aged Care Faciilties

As Victoria is now in Stage 3 restrictions, most aged care homes have suspended all ‘meet & greet’ appointments for tours. Meetings can be arranged so that a client can speak to the staff over the phone, via Skype, Zoom or Face Time. Intending residents can view photos of the home’s interiors and suites and have virtual tours. There are still some aged care homes that provide restricted tours allowing viewing only of the resident’s proposed new bedroom with no interaction with other residents in the home.

Professional Help

I’m finding that now, more than ever, people are seeking my help as a Placement Consultant to find the most suitable aged care facility for their loved one or a client. With so many variables to consider now and a changing landscape it is a comfort to many to be able to use a professional to assist them.

 

 

 

 

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 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.

 

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.