Above: Hammond Chair of Positive Ageing and Care at the University of NSW, Associate Professor Chris Poulos
By Yasmin Noone
Aged care’s greatest minds must start searching for solutions ‘outside the box’ if the nation is to ever achieve a level of service provision that allows older Australians to age in their own home, within their community of choice.
Hammond Chair of Positive Ageing and Care at the University of NSW, Associate Professor Chris Poulos, has called on the country’s health professionals to consider the role that rehabilitation services could play in an aged care system of the future.
Professor Poulos’ said, in the lead up to this year’s HammondCare Aged Care Conference (happening in June), that the sector should place a greater emphasis on the importance of rehabilitation services, in the context of positive ageing.
“Traditionally, rehabilitation happens after a defined event,” Professor Poulos said. “If I had a serious illness and a hip fracture you would know the benefit of a rehab program. It gets you back to the previous level of functioning in society…If you can’t get back to where you were then you will learn to manage [as best you can].
“What we are trying to do is to extend the role of rehabilitation outside the hospital and use a rehabilitation approach [in aged care] to fight the functional decline that ageing and functional disease brings.
“People don’t normally think about rehabilitation in that way and they may not think that rehabilitation might help. But…helping people to stay fit and well through exercise is a good example of rehabilitation – to help reverse the functional decline or postpone what will happen because of the ageing process.”
Rehabilitation, he explained, addresses the medical, physical and psychological needs of a person and it is very much team focused.
“What we need to do is to take a much bigger community view about rehabilitation and aged care. We must develop a multidisciplinary workforce to work together in the community, and have funding systems that allows that to happen. The whole aim is to keep people living independently for as long as possible in the community.
“I think that people need to start thinking outside the box in terms of what we should be doing as a nation to deliver better services for older people.
Professor Poulos will join a host of other speakers presenting at the upcoming HammondCare Aged Care Conference, Rehabilitating Aged Care, happening from 23 to 24 June at the Australian Technology Park, Sydney.
Director of HammondCare’s Dementia Centre, Colm Cunningham, said that 2011 marks a change in direction for the organisation, as this is the first time their conference will focus on rehabilitation.
“Rehabilitation is such a critical issue and we can not talk about supporting people for longer in the community if we do not talk about early and effective rehabilitation,” said Mr Cunningham.
“That’s why it’s a clear agenda item for us. We are trying to bring the best of what’s happening here and elsewhere together to formulate thinking about what Australia should be doing in the future.”
The conference, he said, will aim to examine the interface between rehabilitation and the aged care, community, sub-acute and acute sectors.
“We’ve also chosen to look at something that is always brought up – food. That’s why we’ve chosen Maggie Beer, because as an older Australian herself, it will be good to hear her views on this.”
The event will feature a wide range of expert international and national speakers focus on other topics as well, such as policy, governance, clinical needs, and the design and delivery of services.
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