Times Changing in Aged Care

An Aged Care Facility

The times are certainly a-changing when it comes to aged care accommodation. There were so many horror stories in the media in the past about aged care facilities that the industry has undergone a major shake-up. The government stepped in to close down some facilities and have improved the standards for accreditation for aged care accommodation to ensure our elderly are properly cared for.  I love to assist those looking for aged care accommodation as I seek and find the most suitable facilities for my clients.

These days there are more and more facilities being built and they are very different from those of the past, with hotel standard suites, cafes, private dining rooms and decent wifi to ensure residents can stay connected to their families. Facilities are also beginning to offer expanded life experiences to offset the risks of an institutionalised environment.

One new facility nestled in the foothills of the Gold Coast Hinterland, Carinity Cedarbrook, overlooks a farm with horses and cattle. Carinity’s thirty one hectare site is being used by nearby Southport Boy’s School for science and agricultural classes.The plan is that residents will interact with the students and animals and over time activities will increase to include beekeeping and community gardening. Other facilities offer inter-generational playgroups on a regular basis, usually fortnightly or monthly.

Parents bring their babes and young toddlers along to interact with the residents, taking part in musical, dance, art and story telling together.The children appreciate the interaction with the residents, especially those who don’t have regular access to their own grandparents.The residents in turn are often rejuvenated by the interaction with the very young and the music and activities often bring back fond memories. Staff report that, in particular, those living with dementia are often more engaged and energised by these experiences.

For older adults, programs reduce isolation and create a sense of purpose, including for those living with dementia. And for children the benefits include psychological and social development. Professor Anneke Fitzgerald of Griffith University is doing a feasibility study into demand for inter-generational playgroups in aged care facilities with a possible outcome that it will become government policy.



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.


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.