Melbourne researcher leads an international project spanning Australia, Norway and Sweden investigating cost-effective ways to help residents live fulfilling lives.
The study builds on previous research showing the benefits of care that helps seniors to thrive and aims to provide a model for implementing the approach within facilities.
The international research group, the U-Age Consortium, is being led by La Trobe University professor of Nursing Dr David Edvardsson.
“Thriving interventions” aim to help residents participate in society, enjoy a decent quality of life, and experience healthy, pleasurable activities and meaningful social participation, said Dr Edvardsson.
“Our research shows that older people in aged care can benefit from health-promoting activities and interventions that build on and promote what they actually like doing, such as listening to music, participating in excursions or having nice dinners,” Dr Edvardsson told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Findings so far have showed that resident thriving was associated with engagement in everyday activities in the facility, spending time outdoors, dressing nicely and spending time with people they liked.
On the flipside, predictors of poorer resident thriving included a lower capacity for activities of daily living, cognitive impairment and behaviours of concern.
“Unmet psychosocial needs are often expressed in terms of challenging behaviours such as agitation or aggression, wandering, pacing, verbally disruptive behaviours, or more subtly as loneliness, hopelessness and lack of sense of purpose,” Dr Edvardsson said.
Trialing an education program
The project involves an intervention group to promote thriving at an aged care facility in each of the participating countries. Staff at those facilities will participate in a 12-month educational program, while three other facilities will host a control group.
At the Australian trial site, Hesse Rural Health in Winchelsea, Victoria, Dr Edvardsson is evaluating the effects of interventions through:
- doing a little extra for residents in everyday care
- developing a caring physical and psychosocial environment
- assessing and meeting residents’ highly prioritised psychosocial needs.
Dr Edvardsson said the extras built on resident interests and were things not provided as part of everyday practice.
“They could range from BBQ nights and celebratory dinners to small extras such as grooming, listening to favourite music or having a beer or a glass of wine if these are pleasures for this person.”
Dr Edvardsson said the key was adopting a health-promoting philosophy of care rather than any particular skill or personal characteristic of aged care workers.
The right care philosophy supports and values health and positive ageing and supports staff in thinking creatively and being person-centred, he said.
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