“It is crucial our best and brightest minds are helping advance the tools the aged care industry can use to provide better environments and resources for older Australians.” The Hon. Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care, Minister for Sport
Their research will look at new ways to extend older Australians’ healthy, active, years of life.
New approaches will reduce the stigma associated with ageing and lead to better outcomes for older people, including those in vulnerable populations.
Consistency and quality of care for older Australians will be improved across all care settings.
Better data will be used to develop more effective, evidence-based, care for older Australians.
The projects will view a range of ways to improve support for older Australians.
These include developing an app for older people to recognise early signs of dementia; and increasing dementia diagnosis and early treatments through primary care and awareness programs.
Researchers will look at reducing the risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease and falls through healthy lifestyle and diet changes, including a specific exercise and falls prevention program for older culturally and linguistically diverse Australians.
People’s fitness to drive when they have been diagnosed with dementia will be better assessed and managed.
Older people will be encouraged to communicate their aged care needs, provide their views on screening for age-related health conditions, and engage in physical activity for better health.
Health providers will be helped to better recognise and respond to elder abuse.
Researchers will also trial the use of metformin medication to treat blocked leg arteries; and use informatics to improve medication management in nursing homes.
Here’s the full list of projects and intended outcomes:
Project summary: “Better environment, Healthier Ageing” project aims to measure major environmental risk factors comprehensively, to evaluate their health impacts in older Australians, and to develop, evaluate and implement intervention strategies that can mitigate the adverse impacts. The project will clarify the environmental enablers and barriers for achieving healthy ageing, and provide older Australians, aged care and health service providers with effective strategies to improve environmental health.
Project summary: The transition from living in the community to residential aged care (a nursing home), is a stressful experience for the person and their family that can lead to poor mental health. We designed a program to assist the new resident (PEARL), the family (aSTART), and to provide additional training for staff. We expect the combination of programs will reduce and prevent symptoms of depression in the resident. We will evaluate the impact of the program to guide national rollout.
Project summary: Older people who receive aged care services at home are at a high risk of depression but lack access to effective treatments. Aged care staff are mostly not trained to recognise or manage symptoms of depression. This research will evaluate Enhanced Management of home-Based Elders with Depression (EMBED)—a new model of care that is expected to reduce symptoms of depression, address stigma and enable older Australians to access evidence-based, tailored treatment at home.
Project summary: This project will test whether a public health-seeking campaign and a primary care practice change program increase dementia diagnosis and treatments and supports after diagnosis. The interventions will target dementia knowledge, stigma, and motivations. Interventions will be delivered in three regions. We will measure change through routinely collected health administration data, surveys and interviews. Results will be used to improve dementia training, public campaigns and policy.
Project summary: Programs to promote healthy ageing and reduce frailty work in research trials, but these are not widely available and where they are, people do not always join in. This study will compare ways to support older people to participate in frailty programs (e.g. health coach, online portal) to inform national implementation. We will form an Australian Frailty Network to oversee this and ensure all future work is coordinated and informed by the needs of older people, their families and caregivers.
Project summary: Blood vessel disease is linked with risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease and falls. A large clinical trial will determine if a novel, low-cost, behaviour change program (knowledge of level of blood vessel disease, its links with risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease and falls, and the benefits of and how to follow a Mediterranean diet) will motivate an individual to make healthy lifestyle changes and will improve measures of risk for dementia, cardiovascular disease and falls.
Project summary: In the future, more Australians will live with health conditions that are related to getting older. Some experts recommend that older people be screened for these conditions, yet many questions remain about how best to do this. Together with older people, we will conduct a process to incorporate older people’s views into screening for ageing-related conditions. Our project will provide recommendations on how such screening should be offered within the community.
Project summary: To delay decline, dementia needs to be diagnosed early. However, up to 76% of Australians diagnosed with dementia have advanced beyond the early stage. The Brain Health Journey app is designed to increase awareness of brain health and promote help-seeking for cognitive concerns. This research into the app use and influence on help-seeking, knowledge and beliefs about dementia will underpin widespread use of an evidence-based app by vulnerable older people to facilitate timely dementia diagnosis.
Project summary: MERIT is a randomised controlled trial to assess whether a cheap repurposed medication can treat blocked leg arteries (peripheral artery disease), a condition which adversely affects the quality of life and reduces the functional ability of over 1 million older Australians. Given the substantial prevalence of this disease in older people and the current absence of effective treatments, the findings of MERIT will have important implications for older people worldwide.
Project summary: We will deliver critical resources for primary care management of driving in patients with dementia. These resources include a validated off-road assessment of fitness to drive and protocols. These resources will empower GPs to begin a driving conversation early, assess confidently, and encourage their patients to plan early for eventual driving cessation. An approach that GPs and people living with dementia endorse as the optimal outcome in the inevitable transition to driving retirement.
Project summary: Elder abuse is stigmatised. Older people feel shame disclosing it; health providers struggle to detect it. By improving health providers’ recognition and response, the stigma of elder abuse can be reduced. Using co-design and trial methods, we evaluate our intervention’s effectiveness in improving: (i) health providers’ knowledge of elder abuse and ageist attitudes; (ii) sub-acute care sites’ detection and responses; and (iii) older people’s sense of safety, quality of life, and mental health.
Project summary: The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found that 1 in 5 people have undiagnosed dementia. Our program provides education to residents, staff and families to address dementia stigma and uses blood tests and digital cognitive assessments to indicate which residents need a referral to specialists for a formal dementia diagnosis. This program will improve dementia knowledge and care leading to improved health and wellbeing for vulnerable people living in residential aged care.
Project summary: The Australian Consortium for Aged Care (ACAC) will improve the quality of care provided to older Australians by defining what constitutes high quality care and the tools needed to monitor this across care settings. ACAC will generate the best quality evidence to inform the key components needed to provide high quality person-centred care. Our work will help care providers and the government understand the delivery of care quality and drive quality improvement to improve health and wellbeing.
Project summary: The ENJOY IMP-ACT program is a translation research project built on an evidence based physical and social activity program. It aims to expand its impact on the community by incorporating an implementation framework to support local governments and the community to further engage older people in physical activity for better health. The program aims to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing and social connectedness of older people and build capacity and community engagement.
Project summary: People with dementia are often denied treatments to help them maintain their everyday activities. This can be due to stigma and a lack of knowledge by health professionals. The overall aim of our project is to work with people with dementia, their care partners and service providers to develop and test resources and strategies to improve access to treatments that will assist people living with dementia maintain independence and wellbeing in the community for as long as possible.
Project summary: Poor medication management is a critical and, to date, intractable problem in aged care, impacting residents’ wellbeing. Informatics approaches have enormous potential to improve medication management, reduce the workload of aged care staff, & support residents and families access timely information. This project will demonstrate how informatics can support monitoring of medication quality, provide decision support to guide decision-making & provide consumers with real-time information.
Project title: Unspoken, Unheard, Unmet: Improving Access to Preventative Health Care through Better Conversations about Care.
Project summary: Communication is important. We use it to express our needs, to connect with other people, to make choices, and to tell someone when something is wrong. Many older Australians who receive aged care services have difficulty communicating, but their care workers do not have the tools or resources to support them to express their needs, choices, or concerns. We will co-design and evaluate the “Better Conversations” program: resources and training to support important conversations about aged care.
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