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New hope for care home residents with dementia

A program now being trialled could make life better for less-able residents.

  • Health
  • Read Time: 5 mins

It’s an unfortunate but common perception that nothing can be done to improve the independence of less-able residents in aged-care homes.

Consequently, these people – even those with just mild dementia – are often not included in reablement programs.

A new reablement program being trialled over the next few years looks at changing that, with the aim of improving their independence and wellbeing.

Along with residential aged-care project partners Calvary and Whiddon, the University of Sydney is trialling and evaluating the 20-week Interdisciplinary Care Home-based Reablement Program (I-CHARP) across 16 homes.

In a break with usual practice, the reablement program harnesses care teams, including occupational therapists and nurses, to develop tailored care plans with and for residents based on their individual needs and goals.

The researchers hope the new approach can ultimately be used as routine practice in homes across Australia.

Calvary’s Senior Medical Advisory for Aged Care, Dr Tony Hobbs, said the program worked with residents’ families and care teams to improve residents’ independence and overall health and wellbeing.

“Many older people in aged care homes live with dementia or a mild cognitive impairment, and there is a perception that there is nothing that can be done to support them to maintain their independence,” said Dr Hobbs.

“Previous studies have shown that simply isn’t the case, and this new approach is designed to help residents continue to participate in activities and maintain their independence and function for as long we can.”

Reablement through activity

More than 400,000 Australians are estimated to be living with dementia, and that figure is predicted to more than double to 849,000 by 2058.

Dr Hobbs said finding ways to help enable these people to live their best lives was an important focus.

“With this new approach, we are looking at things like mobility, language, activity, and self-care,” he said.

“The difference with this approach is getting the occupational therapist involved right at the beginning, bringing a different set of eyes and working with the nurse to do a very comprehensive and holistic assessment.”

The trial builds on previous programs and is unique in that it brings together residents, interdisciplinary nursing and health teams and aged care home providers to tailor individual care plans that can work in the real world – helping the residents to participate in their daily physical, social, and community activities.

The researchers say participants in the project’s previous studies told them how wonderful it was to have a positive outlook rather than “saying ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’ all the time”.

The project – which is running until 2027 – involves eligible residents in half of the homes participating in the 20-week program and the others receiving care as usual. Residents’ outcomes will be monitored and compared over the next few years.

You can learn more about the study on the University of Sydney’s website. 

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