Helping Hand Aged Care’s project to retro-fit dementia-friendly environments and educate staff on delivering positive outcomes for people living with dementia in aged care is among five winners of an Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia grant.
ARIIA Grants aim to support high-quality projects that address identified gaps in the aged care workforce’s capability and knowledge and lead to relevant translational research findings for the benefit of the aged care sector.
Three of the five projects named this week in the first round of ARIIA’s grants program support improved dementia care while the other two projects target urgent and critical need. The five recipients share in $1.4 million funding including approximately $800,000 from ARIIA and $600,000 in cash and in-kind co-contributions from grant recipients.
Among them is South Australian provider Helping Hand Aged Care and project partner the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia.
“Helping Hand is thrilled to be among the inaugural recipients of this new dedicated grant program and excited to combine environmental service design with workforce education in the important area of dementia care,” CEO Chris Stewart told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“The funding will enable a Helping Hand project team, in partnership with University of Notre Dame, to use evidenced-based research to implement a range of strategies designed to improve quality of life and standards of care for residents which we will go on to share with aged care colleagues around the country,” he said.
Testing VR as therapy
Fellow grant recipient Victorian aged care provider VMCH is equally “thrilled” with being selected for their project, said VMCH chief information officer Maria Paz. VMCH and project partners will use the funding to evaluate the impact of virtual reality in reminiscence therapy for people living with mild dementia at some of the organisation’s aged care homes.
“This funding will allow us to establish a program and leverage the expertise of our partners Deakin University and SilVR Adventures to independently evaluate the use of VR and see if it can improve the lives of our residents living with dementia and their care outcomes,” Ms Paz told AAA.
“VR can be used to combat loneliness and social isolation, giving older people the ability to visit places they may not be able to go, for example, take a trip overseas or to a favourite destination.”
Other grant winners
The National Ageing Research Institute and home care provider Silverchain have received a grant worth almost $150,000 for their project to implement technology-supported home-based care for older Australians.
South Australian collaboration the SA Innovation Hub, Kalyra, Bene Aged Care, Barossa Village, Resthaven, Be Well Co, Flinders University and Council on the Ageing (South Australia) have received a grant for a project that will implement interventions to support the retention of female workers aged 50 years and over in the aged care workforce.
Fellow SA provider ACH Group along with Dementia Training Australia, Queensland University of Technology and Flinders University have been successful for their engagement project to support aged care frontline staff to engage meaningfully with people with dementia in a sustainable and effective way.
‘High standard of applications’
ARIIA is a three-year $34 million research translation initiative established in 2021 and relaunched under its new name in August. It provides resources and assistance to the aged care workforce to deliver best-practice care and support for older Australians through grants, innovation training, a partnering program and knowledge hub.
ARIIA research director Professor Sue Gordon said the grants would enable recipients to make a significant difference in the identified priority area.
“We had a very high standard of applications, and I am looking forward to seeing how the recipients can translate their research outcomes into practical, real-world solutions with efficiency and immediacy that is previously unheard of,” Professor Gordon said in a statement.
To help speed up the historically slow process of translating research discovery and evidence into practice, ARIIA Grant recipients must undertake their project over a 12-month period. That’s “so we can see how the research discoveries translate into real work changes, in real-time,” Professor Gordon said.
“ARIIA Grants allow aged care providers and research organisations to partner with others and work together to deliver improvements in areas of need, and by making a co-contribution they have a firm commitment in their project.”
The ARIIA Grants Program consists of at least six rounds funded against the key sector priorities of focus: dementia care, rehabilitation, reablement and restorative care, mental health and wellbeing, social isolation, and urgent and critical need.
Round 2 grant recipients will be announced soon. Round 3 is currently open, and applications close 18 November 2022.
Changing aged care landscape
Mr Stewart said he applauded the government’s investment in ARIIA and said the exciting model had the potential to transform practice in aged care.
“The ARIIA experience is reflective of the changing landscape in aged care and brings a contemporary emphasis to the sector, which we welcome. This work will not only benefit current workforce and older Australians, but will help prepare the sector to meet the needs of the next generation,” he told AAA.