Aged care reablement trial gets underway

The first cohort of Calvary’s aged care residents are being enrolled in a project that aims to improve the independence and wellbeing of residents with mild to moderate dementia.

The first cohort of Calvary’s aged care residents are being enrolled to take part in a five-year research implementation project that aims to improve the independence and wellbeing of residents with mild-to-moderate dementia.

The University of Sydney – along with residential aged care project partners Calvary and Whiddon – are trialling and evaluating the 20-week Interdisciplinary Care Home-based Reablement Program (I-CHARP) across 16 aged care homes.

The reablement program teams included experienced occupational therapists and nurses to develop holistic and tailored care plans with and for residents based on their individual needs and goals.

Enrolments and detailed assessments for the program began for eligible residents at Calvary’s aged care home in Ryde in Sydney last week, with homes in other parts of the country set to join as the study progresses. Among the first residents to sign up for the study was Fr Don Willoughby, who said he hoped it might “give some insights” and help other people.

Calvary senior medical advisory for aged care Dr Tony Hobbs said the program addressed a common perception that there was nothing that could be done to support aged care residents with dementia or a mild cognitive impairment to maintain their independence.

“Previous studies have shown that simply isn’t the case, and this new approach is designed to help residents continue to participate in activities and maintain their independence and function for as long we can,” Dr Hobbs said.

The I-CHARP model builds on the Interdisciplinary Home-bAsed Reablement Program (I-HARP), which successfully improved daily independence and slowed further decline among people with mild dementia living in the community.

Professor Yun-Hee Jeon

Project lead Professor Yun-Hee Jeon said the model uniquely provided a timely opportunity for interdisciplinary teamwork between registered nurses and allied health professionals in aged care homes.

“The study is about working in collaboration with aged care partners, co-designing and implementing a model of care that can work in the real-world setting for residents in aged care homes and for providers,” said Professor Jeon, who is the Susan and Isaac Wakil Professor of Healthy Ageing at the University of Sydney.

“Reablement is centered on the idea that health and wellbeing of older people, with or without dementia, can be maximised through helping them participate in their daily physical, social and community activities.

“We’ve seen how it can work in other settings. We had many participants in our previous studies who told us how wonderful it was to have that sort of positive outlook rather than saying well ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’ all the time,” Professor Jeon said.

In addition to co-designing and implementing I-CHARP in a real-world setting, the implementation and evaluation trial aims to:

  • co-design and deploy a new knowledge translation network for aged care
  • examine whether – and, if so, how – I-CHARP implementation produces its intended effects and determine how this program can be adapted, sustained and scaled up across aged care homes
  • develop a tool for the delivery of reablement care that can be used as routine practice across aged care homes in Australia.

The project – which is taking place between 2023 and 2027 – involves eligible residents in half of the homes participating in the 20-week program and the others receiving care as usual. Residents’ outcomes will be monitored and compared over the next few years.

Dr Hobbs said: “This is really important research and we are excited to be again working together with the university to help improve outcomes for people in our care.”

Main image: Lead project nurse at Calvary Ryde Wei Hu and occupational therapist Linda Maher (front) listen as retired priest and project participant Fr Don Willoughby explains his goals and aspirations.

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Tags: calvary, dementia, reablement, Yun Hee Jeon,

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