Nurturing relationships found key to making aged care homely

A Charles Sturt University study has found meaningful relationships and connections are key to making aged care residents feel at home.

Meaningful relationships and connections are key to making aged care residents feel at home, according to research presented at a national conference on ageing-related research.

The Charles Sturt University evaluated what home meant to aged care residents through the eyes of 10 residents aged 72 to 98.

Participants were Anglo Celtic Australians and lived in same aged care facility for one to 10 years. 

Lead researcher and PhD candidate Sally Mordike said the study found residents associated meaningful connections with home.

“The key finding of this study was that for all the people in this residential aged care, home was all about connection. Home means meaningful relationships and meaningful connection to place,” Ms Mordike told the 2021 Australian Association of Gerontology Conference.

“None of the participants called residential care home, even though they recognised it would be their final residence, and irrespective of how long they’ve lived there,” she said.

“Although it couldn’t be home, most participants thought residential aged care could be homely,” Ms Mordike said.

She said the study highlighted the importance of nurturing relationships to create a sense of home.

“Interestingly, it wasn’t so much who the relationship was with, but the quality of the relationship.”

Sally Mordike presenting at the AAG Conference

These qualities include trust, respect, longing, reciprocity and acceptance, she said.

“Although family and friends are important, care workers and fellow residents are also very important relationships, and so the message to care workers and staff out there [is] you really matter,” Ms Mordike said.

Connection to the natural environment, which “might be as simple as being able to see trees or a garden or have a park nearby”, Ms Mordike said.

The study also found that most residents described home as where they grew up as children.

“There was only one participant whose childhood home was not identified as home. And she acknowledged that this was because of a lack of love from her mother. Yet, she believed home was what you made it yourself,” Ms Mordike said.

She said the study found the meaning of home was a spiritual concept.

“[It] sometimes seems indescribable, simply because it is so meaningful to each of us [and] connected to something deep inside ourselves,” she said.

“We need to respect autonomy and independence. In this study, these were important for making these participants feel at home,” she said.

Ms Mordike provided examples of positive strategies such as residents being able to have their possessions including photos in their rooms and having choice in their care.

The 2021 AAG Conference took place on 9 – 12 November.

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of the AAG.

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Tags: aag conference, australian association of gerontology, Charles Sturt University, sally mordike,

2 thoughts on “Nurturing relationships found key to making aged care homely

  1. Hi Sally, thank you for your research and bringing this to the attention of people. The only way that we will eventually destroy institutional care is to have a relationship based system.

  2. I know from my experience that staff all want to create that close relationship and provide what is described in the article, and this includes Managers and Senior Nurses. The problem is that with all the added duties and reporting etc, as well as the higher acuity and low staffing, you are literally running between residents, and staff are so task focused that they rarely get to chat and really connect.

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