Jan 23, 2019

Aged Care is Evolving and Actually Getting Better

When you take into account some of the recent horror stories and the need for a royal commission, it’s not hard to imagine that talking about how good the aged care industry is becoming, might be a bit of a hard sell.

But, when you stand back and look at current trends around the world within the aged care sector as a whole, you could actually proclaim that we are beginning to witness the first steps of the next major improvement in the welfare of elderly people.

Slowly but surely, new innovations and models of care are being utilised all across the globe and some of the amazing results are forcing aged care providers and services to stand up and take notice.

Fresh on the heels of a powerful TEDx talk, acclaimed international speaker, elder care leader, writer and gerontologist Dan Levitt, sat down with HelloCare to discuss the changing trends within the aged care industry and how people in 2019 are beginning to rethink aging.

“The rising tide of dementia is impairing the ability of many seniors to live independently. And baby boomers exhibit stronger preferences for independent living arrangements, greater autonomy, and choice in services than previous generations,” said Dan.

“The good news is the paradigm shift has begun, as the culture within senior care living communities fundamentally changes. Residential-care facilities are no longer the nursing homes of yesteryear, as innovations in the care of the elderly have ushered in a new era in which choice, purpose, and service are paramount.”

When you think about the expectations within an aged care facility now when compared to only three decades ago, the differences are nothing short of startling.

In his TEDx talk on Rethinking Ageing last year, Dan mentioned memories of visiting his grandfather in an aged care facility in the ’80s and seeing a man tethered to a pole to prevent his escaping the facility.

In those days aged care was almost looked upon as a warehouse to store the elderly, but nowadays according to Dan, people simply demand more from their aged care providers.

“Baby boomers expect residential living environments to have a workforce highly customer service oriented; engaging programs and specialized services for seniors with advanced dementia; values that uphold health safety and dignity, and space for couples who desire privacy for intimate encounters, to name a few,” said Dan.

And while today’s current demands for an aged care provider may seem as if they should be a foregone conclusion for all care providers, the reality of the situation is that someone somewhere along the line is going to have to pay for it.

“Society cannot build enough residential care facilities and there is not enough government funding available,” said Dan.

“An obvious truth that is either ignored or going unaddressed is that all the programs and services that baby boomers will need is unsustainable given the current delivery model and tax base. The big question to answer is: who will pay for increased costs to meet the increased demands?”

While the financial ramifications of improved aged care raises many questions, one look at aged care around the globe is evidence enough that there is no shortage of impressive and innovative models of care that will slowly become the next standard of quality for the industry.

And the central theme of all of these innovations revolves around providing elderly people with more choices that allow them to live life their way and gives them a sense of purpose.

“In Tokyo Japan, 10 centenarians (People who are 100+ years old) with dementia live together in a group home where their daily choices include a minimum: 1,500 calories, 1.5 litres of their favourite beverage, walking exercises, and meaningful activities,” said Dan.

“These Seniors are ‘toilet re-trained’ and no longer use incontinence pads, saving money while improving dignity, self-esteem, and quality of life. While physiotherapists mobilize seniors out of their wheelchairs and rehabilitate them to walk with assistive mobility aids.”

“In France, seniors move into nursing homes with time to adjust to their new home before dementia advances. Society has made longer lengths of stay an option for seniors requiring residential care as well as capping the amount people pay. The result is that seniors become accustomed to their environment.”

“In Dijon, a male senior spends his days in a workshop using a scroll saw independently with a hand guard to prevent injury. When it’s time for a break he ventures down to the bistro where he enjoys a glass of Burgundy wine, eats cured meats and unpasteurized cheeses, and crunches on buttery croissants,” he said.

This push towards increasing independence and allowing elderly people to dictate the rhythm and control of their own life has also found its way to Australian shores.

With Sydney being the proud home of a number of the countries most innovative and person-centered nursing home facilities.

“In Sydney, Australia, a consumer-directed care bond program has created an aged care building boom. This renaissance gave birth to ‘The Village’ by Scalabrini, where Italian speaking staff monitor seniors using smart technology enabling residents to wander freely around the outdoor piazza complete with a statue fountain of Venus, Vespas, gelato stand, wood burning pizzeria, and a roman catholic church adorned with stain glass and a clock tower,” said Dan.

One of the greatest innovations currently makes waves in aged care has been the advent and use of the small household model of care.

This care model focuses on providing residents with individualised complex nursing care in a comfortable and homely environment. While doing its best to hide and phase out the institutional elements of the average nursing home environment.

And Australia is proud to be one of the countries that are beginning to lead a charge in this area.

HammondCare and many operators in Australia have adopted the small household model of care combining the comforts of home with individualized complex nursing care,” said Dan.

“It does not look like a nursing home. It looks like a home, providing dignity, privacy and the comfort of living in a household environment. This nurturing living model is a radically new approach to long term care in which conventional nursing homes are replaced with small living areas.

“It takes the nursing-home industry as we know it and it flips it, creating a very homelike residential model of care. There is no central nursing station and no long corridors as those in a traditional nursing home. When you enter the home you feel a sense this is the best place for your mom or dad.”

“The Center for Living creates a private residence where 10 people live and complex care is offered in that household. It is difficult to see anything that would tell you that you are in a nursing home.”

“Each residence has a multi-skilled worker who provides personal care, prepares meals and performs housekeeping for elders.  The multiskilled versatile caregiver becomes recognized by the people living in the small home as a friend, not as someone who is just another employee.”

“Also in Sydney, some seniors prefer a different way of life. SummitCare focuses on hospitality by designing a hotel model residence. Traditional institutional design elements are eliminated: no handrails, no visible nurse call system, no uniforms, and no clothing protecting aprons. Couples choose to live together in a one bedroom apartment, where they sleep together.”

While it can be easy to look at all of the problems and negativity in aged care, all it takes is one glance in the rearview mirror to realise how far things have come and the actual direction in which we are heading.

And as long as we continue to have people like Dan Levitt who are willing to dedicate their entire lives to the betterment and welfare of the elderly, things should only continue to get better.


You can view Dan’s amazing story and ‘Rethink Ageing’ speech from last years TedX event in Abbotsford above.

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