At Benetas, we aim to support translational research that can be used to improve aged care service provision and support older people to age well in the setting of their choice. Findings are shared with the industry and government at all levels to help inform policy directions.
Aged Care Research Projects
Research and Advocacy focus areas
The Benetas Innovation Strategy lists the following six topics as primary areas of innovation focus based on areas of industry need:
Strategic focus 1: Innovative use of aged care service provider data
Strategic focus 2: Carer focus
Strategic focus 3: Building ageing research capacity
Strategic focus 4: Ageing and the Community
Strategic focus 5: Healthy ageing and better practice care
Strategic focus 6: Social justice
Benetas Research Projects to date:
Frailty in community dwelling older people: frailty screening as the canary in the coal mine
In March 2015, Benetas received $1.2 million to undertake a significant new research project focused on identifying and mitigating frailty in older people. The Federal Government-funded project will trial frailty screening in health and aged care assessment and establish resource pathways to empower older people to self-manage their health and wellbeing.
The project will shed an important light on how we assess the health and wellbeing of older people and build greater support for self-managed risk across a range of services and health professionals.
As people interact with our health and aged care system, they will be screened using predetermined criteria to assess their level of frailty and risk and then assisted to manage these factors through a range of partner services and resources.
Importantly, Benetas will develop further supports for those identified with significant risk factors to help minimise these issues. In this way, this project will deliver positive impact to older people living in the community.
International Longevity Centre – Australia
Benetas is leading a consortium of 11 organisations to establish the International Longevity Centre – Australia. This provides an opportunity to focus our efforts in ageing research, share our knowledge, and learn from the international community.
Within the Australasian region, this means a focus on: health and wellbeing, workforce participation, diversity , economic status, intergenerational issues, transitions (retirement, widowhood and other), aged care (and workforce), frailty, and a ‘good death’ (including advance care directives and palliative care).
Benetas’ Bidet Project will provide insight and understanding into how to improve resident hygiene and continence, as well as increase quality of care and dignity for our clients. Previous research has shown the use of bidets has been positive in hospital post operative settings and provides a basis to better understand its use and benefit in continence management and health related impacts.
Social Opportunities for Older Men
The project aims to explore and describe the unique needs and experiences of older Australians, with a particular focus on social exclusion. It aims to identify and assess current best practice models of inclusion and community participation, exploring the potential role and opportunity for partnerships between government, community organisations and community members in facilitating the implementation of initiatives that promote social opportunity for older men.
Better Health Connections: Sub Acute healthcare Linkages in Later Years – SALLY Project
This project is funded by Department of Social Services with Benetas as the administering organisation. The grant was awarded in June 2013, with completion expected March 2015. This project aims to improve health and aged care pathways to optimise care for aged care recipients who are moving between sub-acute health and aged care services.
Evaluation of intervention programs to reduce social isolation of older people
This project is an ARC Linkage Project with University of South Australia (2012-2015). Social isolation imposes a high cost on affected individuals and the community at large. This project will determine what interventions work in addressing social isolation amongst the older population and identify models of social inclusion with greatest positive impact on older people.
Seniors Mediation Program
Benetas works in partnership with FMC Mediation and Counselling Victoria to deliver the specialist Seniors Mediation Program. The program provides mediation aimed at facilitating positive decision making and decreasing family distress for clients moving through aged and community care. This project represents an opportunity to explore a model as a base for additional mediation services and provide a framework for further investment in the future.
Following a recent Canadian study which identified key benefits of respite for older people and their carers, Benetas is conducting research into respite services in Australia and the benefits for carers.
Wellbeing in the Elderly: The role of respect: An ARC Linkage Project with Deakin University (2010-2012). This project is complete and identified significant issues related to respect for older people, creating a respect training program which has been trialled with adolescents and aged care workers. Further funding to continue the roll out is being sought.
Ameliorating Social Isolation in Older people through technology: This project is an ARC Linkage Project with University of Melbourne (2012-2015). This project aims to demonstrate how mobile and broadband technologies can reduce social isolation in older people in the community setting. The project website is available here: http://www.cis.unimelb.edu.au/research/groups/interaction-design/project-ageing.html
Shared Connections: This project was funded by Perpetual Trust and compelted in 2014. This project trialled volunteers as mentors to assist older people at risk of social isolation to reconnect with their community through involvement in interest groups. The outcomes have informed social isolation initiatives at Benetas in the community setting.
Better Health Connections- Telehealth at Gladswood Lodge: This project is funded by Department of Health and Aging in June 2013, with completion expected March 2016. This project aims to trial video consultations with GP’s for aged care residents. The outcomes will validate alternative models for provision of primary care in the aged care facility setting.
Depression in the Elderly: This was a Deakin University ARC Linkage project (2009-2012) to support Aged Care Staff skills when assessing Depression. Data collection occurred at several Benetas facilities and the project was completed in 2013.
The Value of Nursing in Aged Care: This project is a partnership with Federation University in Gippsland to improve career aspirations of student nurses via improved clinical placements in aged care facilities.
Hurlingham Dining Experience: Benetas commissioned this research 2009-2010. The outcome of this project was to evaluate the dining experience of Benetas Clients. This outcome from this research contributed to a number of internal catering initiatives to improve the dining experience for all Benetas Clients.
Transitioning into residential aged care: A small Clinical Psychology Doctorate study trialling a counselling intervention to reduce depression and improve wellbeing post admission to residential aged care. The outcomes of this study have informed our residential facility admission process.
Decision making by residential care staff regarding residents with dementia: This was a Deakin University project which was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing. Benetas provided in-kind support. The project aimed to create tools to support residential staff when making decisions about dementia patients.
Dementia and Falls Prevention: This project is a small PhD study trialing a falls prevention strategy specifically in community clients with dementia. Data collection occurred at one Benetas facility and the student is preparing her thesis and publications for submission in early 2014.
Pain and the Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD): This is a University of Melbourne/NARI project which was funded by the NHMRC as a clinical trial. Participants are being sought across many aged care service providers across the state. The project trialled the provision of low dose pain relief to clients with dementia over a six week period to determine if behaviours were related to pain. Results may inform better practice in dementia care.
Evaluation of Advanced Care Plans: This is an Austin Health project which is a follow up to an earlier project involved staff being trained in the use of advance care planning. Results from this current study will be used to inform plans for staff training in the use of advance care plans.
Management of Epilepsy in Aged Care: This is an Epilepsy Victoria project funded by the Wicking Trust. The project aims to develop a service model for managing epilepsy in aged care that supports people to stay in their own home and delays or eliminates the need for residential care. The project will conclude 2015 and results may inform better practice in Epilepsy management.
Increasing the Calcium and Vitamin D intake of older people through an enhanced dairy menu: This is a University of Melbourne/Austin Health project funded by the Dairy Australia and an international dairy farmers consortium. The project aims to measure the impact of increased dairy in residential aged care. The project will conclude in 2015 will inform better practice in nutrition requirements in Aged Care facilities in Australia.
Pilot study on effectiveness and ease of use of tele-dentistry: This is a University of Melbourne project funded by the Royal Dental Hospital of Victoria which concluded in June 2013. The project trialled the use of tele-dentistry to improve oral health for aged care residents. The results will inform better practice in oral health care in Aged Care facilities in Australia.
Detailed reports are available below for the following projects: Forgotten Voices, Women at Work, Finding the Way and Respect in an Ageing Society.
Forgotten Voices: Pilot study of a choir for people living with dementia in a residential aged care setting
Dementia is a condition that mostly affects older people and is therefore common in people living in residential aged care. The prevalence of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), such as depression, anxiety, agitation, wandering and screaming are higher in people with dementia living in residential care than in the broader population of people with dementia.
These symptoms can have a considerable negative impact on the quality of life of those experiencing them and are a challenge to carers and to the broader aged care sector. Psychosocial approaches to the treatment of BPSD are recommended as first-line treatments, and music therapy is one such approach that has been used with this population.
While there is a range of different music therapy interventions, group singing is an approach that is believed to deliver benefits for social interaction and engagement. Choral singing is a form of group singing that incorporates scheduled practice and performance. It may have benefits for self-esteem, facilitating participation and cooperation in a group task and fostering a sense of community.
Few studies have examined the use of choral singing as a psychosocial intervention for people with dementia living in residential aged care using quantitative or qualitative scientific methods. This project sought to extend an earlier study that introduced a choir intervention to people with dementia living in the community, by applying a similar activity within a residential aged care setting.
We sought to evaluate the choir intervention in terms of its impact on the quality of life of participants and the effect it had on BPSD, including depression. The subjective and qualitative effects of the intervention as reported by staff of the aged care facility were also explored. As part of the project, YouthWorx created a short video on the choir.
Women at Work - Voices of older women
Women at Work commissioned by Benetas and undertaken by Deakin University researchers Grazyna Zajdow and Marilyn Poole, involved women between the ages of 66 and 92 talking about their experiences in employment throughout their lives, compared to younger generations.
The research started with the hypothesis that older women may be envious towards younger women and the opportunities they enjoy today, compared to their experiences – however this was found to be untrue.
The study found that older women recognise that younger women have tremendous career opportunities and are willing to support them to achieve their goals, but that these opportunities also bought many responsibilities.
Many of the participants believed that if women of today wanted to ‘have it all’, then they would have to work to pay for it, just as their mothers and grandmothers had done. They saw that younger women had many more educational opportunities than they did, resulting in greater job opportunities.
The participants discussed their own working lives and their family responsibilities. All women juggled jobs around their family responsibilities. Today it is much more acceptable for women to ask their family members for help or place their children in childcare centres or kindergartens. The participants in the study mostly got help from friends or neighbours, with very little or no help from their husbands.
Speech notes from the event:
Finding the way - a Theology of Ageing
Finding the way – a theology of ageing, is a research paper written by Reverend Canon Dr Stephen Ames and commissioned by Benetas, which looks into the issues surrounding older people in Australia, particularly issues around spirituality and what constitutes a ‘positive’ experience in ageing.
It asks the questions, what is positive ageing for older Australians and how are older people perceived by society. It explores why there are negative attitudes and stereotypes around ageing and what our society can do to change these perceptions.
A theology of ageing also examines ageing from a spiritual point of view, as a Christian or otherwise. It also explores what it means to be a ‘whole person’ when you age and challenges the idea that as you age, you lose who you are.
Speech notes from the event:
Respect in an Ageing Society
Respect in an Ageing Society is a research paper commissioned by Benetas to examine the attitudes of society towards older people and what respect for older Australians means to them, and the wider community.
Research participants included members of generation X and Y, baby boomers, volunteers from residential care facilities, older people in residential care and older people living independently. It is the first study in Australia to investigate respect for older people.
The study raises issues surrounding the vast generational difference of opinion about the value of older people in society. It examines the impact of issues unique to Australia, such as the geographical dispersion of families, as well as the prevalence of ageism.