Research round-up

Rates of advance directives low among Australians; healthy seniors wanted for Alzheimer’s study; ageing well in CALD communities; call to reduce the disproportionate suffering of older persons in disasters.

In this story:

  • Rates of advance directives low among Australians
  • Healthy seniors wanted for Alzheimer’s study
  • Ageing well in CALD communities
  • Call to reduce the disproportionate suffering of older persons in disasters
Rates of advance directives low among Australians

Just 14 per cent of Australians have an advance directive, or living will, detailing their end of life treatment and care preferences, according to a joint University of Queensland, QUT and Victoria University study published in the Internal Medicine Journal this month.

The survey found wide variations nationally. Leading the country for the number of residents with advance directives was South Australia (21 per cent) and Queensland (19 per cent) while the Northern Territory had the lowest number (9 per cent).

Professor Ben White QUT
Professor Ben White

QUT Australian Centre for Health Law Research director Professor Ben White, who led the study, said Australians were far more likely to make a will (59 per cent) or an enduring financial power of attorney (30 per cent) than an advance directive.

People who completed a financial enduring power of attorney were nine times more likely to have an advance directive than those who hadn’t while those with a will were 2.5 times more likely to have an advance directive than those without, he said.

Professor White said the findings presented an opportunity outside the health setting to advance the policy goal of increasing advance care planning.

“Those responsible for advising wider future planning processes such as will-making, including lawyers and financial planners, should be co-opted into efforts to encourage people to plan not only for their financial future but for their health as well.

“And health professionals must take opportunities to inquire about people’s existing directives. Getting Australians to think about advance care planning is a big challenge, so we need to think about how to start conversations about future health decision-making,” he said.

Healthy seniors wanted for Alzheimer’s study

Tomorrow studyAustralian researchers are recruiting for an international study of 5,000 healthy seniors investigating the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The TOMORROW study aims to investigate whether a new investigational test can predict the genetic risk for developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

MCI due to AD results in an otherwise healthy-minded person experiencing a gradual, progressive decline in thinking ability significant enough to be noticed but not severe enough to interfere with daily activities and functioning independently.

The study also aims to test whether an investigational medication is effective in delaying the early symptoms of MCI due to AD.

To be eligible, participants must be aged 65 to 83, have good physical and mental health, and not have a current diagnosis or history of cognitive impairment, dementia, neurological or psychiatric disorders, or a current diagnosis of mental illness.

Participants also need a project partner, such as a spouse, companion, close friend, or adult family member, to provide information about their thinking abilities and behaviour throughout the study.

The study consists of three phases comprising screening, active participation, and follow up. The active phase involves the participant receiving either the study medication or a placebo, attending site visits every six months, and taking part in assessments via telephone in between visits, for a total of approximately five years.

The research involves approximately 50 study centres in North America, Europe, and Australia. The current Australian locations are Gold Coast University Hospital in Southport, Queensland, McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation in Nedlands, Western Australia, and Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in West Heidelberg Victoria.

To find out more or see if you are eligible call (07) 5688 7170 or visit www.tommorrowstudy.com.

Ageing well in CALD communities

Geographic isolation, language barriers at all levels of service navigation and service provision, and reluctance to use residential aged care are among common challenges facing three Victorian CALD communities, according to a report launched in Melbourne today.

Ageing Well in Three Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities identifies how to support ageing well in Chinese, Italian and Greek communities in Victoria. The report was commissioned by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, which has been supporting CALD communities for nearly 50 years.

Ageing well in three CALD communitiesThis research aims to influence how the foundation will support these communities and enhance the prospects of ageing well in a culturally diverse Australia.

Common structural issues identified in the report include difficulties in forming partnerships, a lack of infrastructure to cope with the changing demography, limited access to an experienced and culturally-equipped workforce, challenges between ethno-specific and mainstream service provision, and limited engagement with philanthropic organisations.

On the positive side the study identified each community’s resilience, resourcefulness and commitment to assisting older people to age well and philanthropy’s ability to take the risks government or other funding bodies cannot.

The report recommends future philanthropic planning and funding reflect the current political and sensitive debate, exploring cross-sectoral engagement through collaborative networks, implementing funding and application guidelines to support smaller organisations, and providing resources to support CALD communities to undertake strategic planning and develop evidence-based services and programs.

The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation CEO Catherine Brown said the foundation was committed to positive social change.

“Research has shown that people from CALD backgrounds are ageing more rapidly than the general Australian population and this qualitative study identifies areas that the philanthropic sector – and other organisations working with CALD communities – can support,” she said.

Download the full report here: Ageing Well in Three Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities

Call to reduce the disproportionate suffering of seniors in disasters

Older people are often excluded or marginalised when disaster management plans are being drawn up, according to a survey conducted for the International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and HelpAge International.

Charter 14

In a joint statement yesterday, the UNISDR and HelpAge International issued a call for greater involvement of older persons in disaster management efforts worldwide.

The survey of older people found that more than half of respondents (58 per cent) said they did not know who was responsible for disaster preparedness in their communities while more than two-thirds (68 per cent) said they did not participate at all in such activity.

On being included in disaster planning decision-making, 70 per cent of respondents said they wanted to explain the special needs and vulnerabilities of older persons, 43 per cent called for training so they could help the community in disaster preparedness and response, and 32 per cent said they wanted to share their experiences on how to cope with disaster situations.

The joint statement said there was strong evidence that older persons suffer disproportionately from disasters even in developed countries.

Disaster resilience

It stated that 75 per cent of people killed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were over 60 but made up just 15 per cent of the New Orleans populations and that 56 per cent of those who died in the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011 were 65 and over, despite making up 23 per cent of the population.

It is calling on governments to sign up to Charter 14 for Older People in Disaster Risk Reduction and commit to specific inclusion of older persons in all facets of disaster management planning with a strong emphasis on early warnings and evacuation procedures.

HelpAge International has recently published Disaster Resilience in an Ageing World: How to make policies and programmes inclusive of older people.

The document outlines how disaster management practitioners can include older people and meet requirements in risk assessment, early warning systems, stockpiling, evacuation planning, training of responders, protection and psychosocial response, and health and nutrition planning.

 

Tags: advance-care-directive, advance-care-planning, alzheimers-disease, disaster-plan, disasters, helpage, mild-cognitive-impairment, qut,

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