Built environment key in household model

A University of Technology Sydney study has found a specially-designed homelike setting plays an important role in delivering the household model of care in residential aged care.

The built environment and how care is received under a household model of care in residential aged care are inextricably linked, a University of Technology study has found.

The study involved focus groups with 16 aged care staff from Uniting NSW ACT who had transitioned from a traditional aged care home to a new and specially designed home delivering a household model of care.

The study, published in the journal Health and Pace, undertook spatial analysis to explore the impact of this built environment for residents with mental health conditions.

The researchers then mapped how the built environment supported improved behaviours and care practices in the areas of food preparation and dining, sleep and self-care, site layout, and relationships.

Lead researcher Dr Phillippa Carnemolla said the study found the built environment played an important role in the household model of care.

Dr Phillippa Carnemolla

“One of the significant things is the reciprocity and that relationship between the built environment and the way health and aged care is provided – they both influence and enact upon each other in sophisticated ways” Dr Carnemolla told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“[It plays a role] at a very intimate scale around personal care but also around shared space and a social scale. It is also about location and neighbourhood,” said Dr Carnemolla, a senior research fellow at the School of Built Environment at UTS.

Increased flexibility around food and dining and sleep and hygiene were among the key themes identified in the study, she said.

“Instead of food only being available at very set times, for the first time people who are receiving high level support were able to have food at any time of the day,” which “had a huge impact on wellbeing and autonomy,” Dr Carnemolla said.

“People didn’t have to wake up at the same time. They didn’t have to shower at the same time. There was a lot more autonomy and time flexibility given to people around receipt of care,” Dr Carnemolla said.

However, this means staff also have to be more flexible with how they provide care, she said.

The study also identified increased opportunities for residents to engage with each other and family members, more social spaces, such as at cafés and an improvement with resident and staff relationships, Dr Carnemolla said.

“People who were receiving care were able to form much more trusted relationships with the staff because it was the same people who were there in predictable ways so that relationships could deepen and develop.”

Providers should be thinking about how future aged care homes need to look both within and around them, Dr Carnemolla said.

“You have to look at the design of bathrooms and those intimate living spaces, but just as important is the location of that particular aged care site.

Access the study.

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Tags: built envrionment, dr phillippa carnemolla, household model of care, research, residential aged care, uniting nsw act, university of technology sydney,

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