A new study provides further insights into the topical question of how to enhance the quality of life of aged care residents, highlighting the importance of autonomy and meaningful relationships.
The researchers say their findings show that aged care facilities should strive for continuity of frontline care workers so that staff can nurture trusting relationships with residents.
The qualitative study, based on interviews with 18 residents, found that many were not included in decision-making and found it difficult to forge meaningful personal connections.
Enabling new residents to make more decisions about their care and the activities on offer would be one way of facilitating a successful transition and adaption to residential aged care life, the study found.
“Three themes emerged reflecting the reality of residential aged care life for these participants: loss of autonomy, dignity and control; valuing important relationships; and resigned acceptance,” according to the study’s authors, Helen Walker of Deakin University and Penelope Paliadelis of Federation University.
Residents felt that staff provided adequate clinical care but didn’t always have enough time to engage in meaningful social interactions and could not actively engage in building friendships.
This finding is in line with previous research that identified an “over-emphasis on aged care facility staff providing clinical services and completing documentation rather than nurturing social interactions with and between older persons,” the researchers said.
The study found:
“Australia’s aged care system is dominated by regulations that contribute to a reduced sense of identity and this has had a significant impact on the participant’s experience of residential aged care life.”
The findings support earlier studies that found a lack of choice and control, and maintenance of dignity and privacy, all affect residents’ quality of life, the researchers said.
It was clear that the impact of living in aged care elicited strong emotions for the residents even though they had resigned themselves to the constraints of living in a facility.
The study found there were practical ways that facility staff could address residents’ loss of autonomy and ameliorate their sense of grief, which included providing activities and outings specifically orientated towards individual preferences.
The new findings come amidst increasing sector interest in resident wellbeing, with quality of life included in the national program of quality indicators in residential aged care currently being implemented.
Last month Australian Ageing Agenda reported that veteran industry CEO Mike Rungie had called on fellow providers to start measuring and benchmarking their residents’ quality of life as a way of fostering industry-wide collaboration to ensure older people live better lives (read that story here).
The new study on quality of life was published in the recent Australasian Journal on Ageing.
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