Older men who access a wide range of community care services are more likely to have better memory than those who access fewer services, research indicates.
Macquarie University preliminary research suggests that using multiple services offered by community aged care providers is of great benefit to community-dwelling older men.
Lead researcher Dr Joyce Siette, a Research Fellow with Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation, said users of aged care services benefit in multiple ways, including from increased social interaction.
“Older men who are receiving community aged care services are more likely to have higher cognitive function compared to those who are receiving less services,” she told Community Care Review.
“The reason behind this may be that the men who enter these services have received the help they needed and as such there’s been a change in their health, particularly towards their mental health and cognitive function.”
“Our early results also indicate that men who have higher social networks have a benefit in their cognitive ability.”
“Often, when older adults access aged care services, they are more likely to meet new people and form friendships, increase their social networks, which here in this study, suggests an improvement in their memory performance.”
Dr Siette said that interestingly age is not the most likely predictor of declining cognitive function in older adults in this cohort.
For the study, the Macquarie University researchers recruited 177 people living in NSW, who were receiving home and community-based care services from one of three aged care organisations. They measured the participants’ social networks, health-related quality of life and cognitive function at two time points – at the beginning of the research and after six months.
The researchers are currently analysing the data and will release the study findings later this year. The protocol paper describing this study has been published in the BMJ open.
While evidence has shown that involving older adults in social activities is beneficial, this is the first study to look at what works best in terms of other practical services, such as help with transport and personal care.
“We will be investigating which aged care services in particular are driving this improvement in cognitive function,” Dr Siette said.
“The findings will contribute to our understanding of how specific social network structures and social support services can maintain cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults.
Currently, services provided by community aged care may include practical assistance, such as transport and personal care, one-on-one visits to a person’s home and social outings. It may also include help accessing rehabilitation with nurses or physiotherapists.
“With further analysis we will be able to guide community aged care providers in designing services that offer the best outcomes for older Australians.”
The factors that influence changes in the older brain’s ability to learn and understand, include sociodemographic factors such as education, age, marital status, country of birth, as well as social factors such as friend and family networks and wellbeing factors such as quality of life.
These factors will be considered in the future analysis of this body of research.