Good aged care should be more than just person-centred, it should be community centred.
This was a central theme emerging from the recent NARI Summit, hosted by Australian Unity. “What makes good aged care?” which brought together a range of speakers, researchers, advocates, architects and people with lived experience of the aged care system. The summit was opened by the Victorian Minister for Ageing Disability and Carers, the Honourable Luke Donnellan.
According to delegates and speakers, including Nikki Beckmann from Marchese Partners, aged care should be not just person-centred with excellent clinical care, it should also enable older people to be integrated with and able to participate in community life.
“We need to be able to hear older people’s voices, learn from their experiences and enrich the broader community,” she said.
The second message was the need for further implementation and roll out of good, new ideas and models of practice that have already been developed and tested. Keynote speaker Professor John Pollaers in his Aged Care Workforce Taskforce Report said that strategy 12, the Aged Care Growth and Research Translation Centre, if implemented, would provide a pathway from evidence into best practice for all aged care providers.
From a community perspective, Professor Pollaers highlighted the need to change attitudes to care, ageing and dying and to promote the value of the aged care workforce. As he said, there is an urgent need to reform our aged care system “because how we care for our ageing reflects who we are as a nation.”
The Summit heard that while there is some way to go to achieve a truly community centred approach to care, there are innovations which, if scaled up, could help Australia achieve this for older people.
One example was community-controlled Aboriginal remote arts centres which operate with the elders as centre directors, respected artists and the purveyors of tradition and culture. At the same time, the arts centres work with aged care providers to care for the artists by providing food, transport, support to attend medical appointments and a place of safety, away from stigma and discrimination associated with the intersectionality of race, age and disability.
According to Paulene Mackell, NARI and RMIT researcher, while this approach is not directly transferable to the non-Aboriginal community, there are lessons that can be applied more broadly. Art centres are intergenerational, safe places where people are valued for their strengths at the same time as having their care needs met.
NARI’s Clinical Director Associate Professor Frances Batchelor demonstrated an app that will enable home care workers to communicate better with clients when they speak a different language. This app developed by her NARI team with Curve Tomorrow is not intended to replace interpreting services but is designed to provide for day to day two-way communication, such as greetings and farewells, enquires about the client’s general health and wellbeing and what they would like the care worker to do during that visit. This app is ready to be scaled up and used more widely.