When it comes to their care, aged care residents are most looking for management of medical conditions, respect from staff and opportunities for independence, a Macquarie University study has found.
The research involved a card sorting activity to rank different aspects of care and in-depth interviews with 38 residents at five aged care facilities in New South Wales and Queensland from a single provider.
The study, published in Health Expectations in late January, aimed to identify residents’ care priorities.
Despite differences in residents’ abilities and conditions, the study group agreed on three key areas, said lead researcher Dr Kristiana Ludlow.
“The three overarching priorities for the entire group were having medical conditions managed because they said ‘that’s the reason why I’m in care and it’s really important to me’,” Dr Ludlow told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“The second one was being treated with respect, which includes having privacy respected and having choices about care,” said Dr Ludlow, a postdoctoral research fellow at Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation.
The third was having opportunities to be independent, she said.
“I thought [this] was really interesting because residents that were quite dependent and those who said they needed support would tell me all the different ways they could have independence in their own personalised way,” Dr Ludlow said.
The study fills a gap in the research because it asked aged care residents what they most wanted from their care and their reasons behind those priorities.
“A lot of research has looked at either family members’ preferences for care, or if they do ask residents, it is about preferences,” she said.
Some residents prioritised the ability to attend daily mass or walk to the nearby church, emotional support from staff and having their call bell answered in a timely manner.
Encouraging open and ongoing communication between residents and staff members is one strategy to help meet residents’ priorities, said Dr Ludlow.
“It’s important to check-in with residents about their priorities and have that communication. Residents priorities change over time, just like their needs change.”
For for residents who are unable to verbalise their priorities, staff need to learn to understand their cues, she said.
“It becomes important to involve family members to understand non-verbal cues and to learn from family members what the resident’s life history was, and what was important to them,” she said.
Supporting a resident’s independence is another way.
A resident may be unable to put on her bra or socks, so staff should assist with those tasks, but the resident can put on her own blouse, so staff could support her to do that, Dr Ludlow said.
“It’s just about trying to find ways for that individual person of how to give them independence.”
Access the Aged care residents’ prioritization of care: A mixed-methods study here.