Grants awarded to help deliver better outcomes for older people

Researchers have received Medical Research Future Fund grants to transform medication safety in aged care homes and reduce depression and health-sector elder abuse among older people.

From transforming medication safety in aged care homes to reducing health-sector elder abuse and depression, researchers have been awarded millions this month through the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund’s 2021 Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care grants.

Among them, Professor Johanna Westbrook – director of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University – has received $992,000 to lead a project demonstrating how sophisticated and user-friendly IT systems can improve medication management and support aged care staff and residents.

Professor Johanna Westbrook

“Poor medication management is a critical problem in aged care, and one that has proved difficult to solve,” Professor Westbrook said in a statement.

Researchers from six universities will work in close partnership with BESTMED’s existing medication management system used in more than 500 of Australia’s aged care facilities and by pharmacists and general practitioners caring for over 58,000 older people.

She said the project, which involves two aged care providers, would show how sophisticated data processing improved medication management by:

  • supporting the monitoring medication and guiding decision-making
  • reducing the workload of aged care staff
  • providing real-time information to residents and their families.

The study will also produce new evidence on medication indicator variance across the country and a national atlas of medication use in residential aged care. The project recognises the need to reduce the workload burden on the aged care workforce through practical and scalable solution, Professor Westbrook said. 

“We will design and test an intervention to provide residents and their families with dependable and timely information about changes to medication to keep them better informed and increase opportunities for engagement in decision-making.”

The chief investigator team from Macquarie University, Deakin University, University of Sydney, University of Western Australia, Bond University and Monash University is undertaking the research in partnership with BESTMED, the Aged Care Industry IT Council, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Western Sydney Local Health District, Melbourne Health, Southern Cross Care and Bupa Aged Care.

Over $3m to reduce elder abuse and boost activity

The National Ageing Research Institute has received two grants worth over $3.5 million to support continued research into improving health and aged care outcomes for two projects – No More Shame and ENJOY IMP-ACT.

The No More Shame project – led by NARI director of social gerontology Professor Bianca Brijnath – aims to remove stigmas and improve the recognition of, and response to, elder abuse by health providers.

It includes a co-designed training program for health providers, implementation of a co-designed screening tool, and a site champion in 10 sub-acute care sites across Australia.

Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath

“Almost 15 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse, and its impact can be truly catastrophic – decreasing quality of life, and increasing mortality risk by 40 per cent,” Professor Brijnath said.

“Health providers play a vital role in helping elder abuse victims realise that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and to create a safe environment for reporting and response. This project will help to change the rhetoric around elder abuse, both in health care settings and in our society at large.”

The ENJOY Seniors Exercise Park IMP-ACT project – IMProving older people’s health through physical ACTivity – is designed to increase participation in physical activity to improve health outcomes for older people in Victoria.

The project aims to:

  • enhance the physical and mental wellbeing and social connectedness of older people
  • build capacity and engagement within local health providers, seniors groups and community members to maintain sustainability long term.

Five local governments will implement evidence-based, physical and social activity programs utilising specialised outdoor exercise equipment – the Seniors Exercise Park – for older people.

Professor Pazit Levinger

“We know how significantly physical activity can benefit the health of older people, by reducing risk of chronic disease, cognitive and functional decline, and improving mental health and wellbeing,” said project lead Professor Pazit Levinger.

“These exercise parks are also powerful facilitators of social connection, and by having accessible exercise equipment readily available we can encourage exercise that is safe, effective and enjoyable.”

$2m to reduce depression among home aged care recipients

A research project led by home health and aged care provider Silverchain and Monash University has been awarded $2 million to implement and evaluate an innovative model of mental health care for older people.

The ‘enhanced management of home-based elders’ – or EMBED model – aims to facilitate early detection and use of evidence-based treatment of depression in older Australians who receive aged care in their home.

Lead investigator Dr Tanya Davison – who is Silverchain’s director of research discovery and Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University – has established an aged mental health research collaboration of 15 of Australia’s premier clinical researchers from seven universities to address the growing problem of depression in aged care.

Mobility issues, life losses, and social isolation can mean many older people are not as engaged in the community and are at higher risk of depression, said Silverchain’s executive director of research and innovation Dr Anna Barker.

“Receiving aged care services at home provides real choice for people who want to retain their own agency and independence, but we must ensure as a sector we are attuned to every need, not just physical or social support,” Dr Barker said.

“There is a lack of access for our aged care in the home clients to effective treatments for depression,” she said. “Our research will evaluate the new EMBED model that is expected to reduce symptoms of depression, address stigma and enable older Australians to access evidence-based, tailored treatment at home.”

Project aims to prevent depression for new residents

Also aiming to reduce depression, University of Newcastle researcher Dr Michelle Kelly has been awarded $200,000 over 12 months to tackle the issue in new aged care residents.

Dr Kelly’s research is focused on older people’s transition from living at home and in their communities, to living in an aged care facility. 

She and her team will evaluate the effectiveness of three complementary programs they developed to assist new aged care residents, their families, and aged care staff in preventing and reducing depression for residents. The findings will be used to support a national rollout plan.

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on FacebookX (Twitter) and LinkedIn, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: Anna Barker, australian institute of health innovation, Biana Brijnath, johanna-westbrook, macquarie-university, Michelle Kelly, mrff, nari, newcastle-university, Pazit Leninger, silverchain,

1 thought on “Grants awarded to help deliver better outcomes for older people

  1. Congratulations to all recipients.

    I’m particularly curious about the EMBED model developed by Silverchain & Monash University. Some of us, as non-researchers, have long recognised the problem of poor mental health in older people living at home but don’t have the resources to research or develop models to improve older people’s mental health.

    My hope is that, while models like EMBED will identify and aim to reduce the symptoms of depression, non-pharmacological resources in the aged care sector and MH practitioner environments (e.g. PACFA) will be better utilised and recognised. I hope there are opportunities to work with practitioners across sectors so that older people can experience a better quality of ageing.

    Counsellors work in complex environments and can certainly support older people at home who may experience depression, social isolation and even grief for many losses in their life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *