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Call for facilities, hospitals to work together

Greater collaboration between aged care facilities and hospitals will allow residents to get specialist heath treatment in their home environment and avoid unnecessary hospitalisations, an upcoming national conference on ageing research and practice will hear.

Westmead Hospital geriatrics advanced trainee Dr Leesa Giang undertook research involving over 40 aged care facilities in Western Sydney to evaluate the effectiveness the Geriatric Rapid Evaluation and Treatment (GREAT) service.

GREAT is an an outreach service for aged care facilities that provides specialist health care support for residents in their aged care facilities for needs such as palliative care, wound management and behavioural and psychological responses related to dementia.

The study found that the service reduced the number of unnecessary hospital admissions and the length of stays among residents, said Dr Giang, who will present her research at the Australian Association of Gerontology Conference in Melbourne next week.

Dr Leesa Giang

“The benefit of the service is that residents are able to get that specialist care in their home environment,” Dr Giang told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“There needs to be more collaboration and work together between hospitals and aged care facilities to increase support services.”

The number of hospital admissions from residents in aged care decreased from 1,867 in 2015 before the GREAT service was implemented to 1,301 in 2017 after it was implemented, Dr Giang said.

She said the length of stays of residents also decreased from a total of 14,111 days in 2015 to 8,809 in 2017.

Dr Giang said the outreach service did not intend to obstruct hospital transfers, but rather provide care to residents in their facility when suitable.

“For the most part, it’s appropriate for residents to come into hospitals for a comprehensive assessment to find out what’s going on, but there is a subset where they can be looked after in their home environment and that’s what residents and families prefer as well,” Dr Giang said.

It is important to reduce unnecessary hospitalisations because being in hospital can put residents at risk of further injuries including pressure injuries and falls, she said.

“Hospitals are a traumatic place for older people, particularly when they have delirium,” Dr Giang  said.

“For anyone who is dying, acute hospitals are not the place to spend their final days.”

The GREAT Service also provides aged care staff with education training sessions on how to care for residents after being treated by the outreach service, such as looking after complex wounds, Dr Giang said.

The trial showed that aged care staff developed confidence with their skills after being involved with the education sessions, she said.

“Staff felt more empowered about how to look after complex wounds, pain and palliative care management,” Dr Giang said.

The AAG Conference will take place at the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre on November 21-23.

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner to AAG.

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