A Community Integrated Approach for Residential Aged Care

Moving towards a ‘community integrated approach’ could help to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians in residential aged care, according to new research funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH).

In Australia, residential aged care is for senior Australians who can no longer live independently at home. Unfortunately, this change can sometimes be associated with a lack of quality of life.

Ian Scott PhD Scholarship recipient Anjalika Wijesurendra from the University of New South Wales says active and healthy ageing is important for older people with higher care needs, and that institutional aged care does not have to result in isolation from society.

In her PhD, Ms Wijesurendra set out to investigate the characteristics and effectiveness of emerging models that she termed ‘Community Integrated Residential Aged Care (CI-RAC)’, which enables residents with higher care needs to remain socially engaged with the community.

“The CI-RAC model developed in this research offers a useful aid in examining the extent of community integration and how well the needs of high care residents are accommodated in the practice of community integration across the three components of a supportive social, operational and built environment,” Ms Wijesurendra said.

In this research, 50 stakeholders and residents in four case studies of residential aged care facilities in New South Wales were interviewed, to better understand how the CI-RAC model applies to real life settings.

This model proposed three key elements of community integration:

  1. A supportive operational environment
  2. A supportive social environment
  3. A supportive built environment of an aged care facility.

“It demonstrates how these three components work together to deliver community integrated residential aged care settings,” Ms Wijesurendra said.

Ms Wijesurendra’s research also revealed a four-tier understanding of what constitutes ‘community’ for care receivers and providers.

“This includes the internal resident community; staff, family, and service providers; the local community; and the wider external community.”

Further to this, the CI-RAC model was extended and refined to include three types of interaction that are also important across all three operational, social and build environment components of the model.

These are referred to as permeability, porosity, and propinquity.

“Permeability refers to aspects that support interaction between residents and the external community; porosity to aspects that support the building of social ties as desired between residents within the facility; and propinquity to aspects that actively encourage social and physical nearness and harmonious relationships both within and outside the facility,” Ms Wjesurendra said.

“In the light of the failures in the residential aged care sector being revealed in the current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, it seems clear that reform is needed. This research suggests that moving more toward a more community integrated approach could help this endeavour.”

By utilising care models in residential aged care that are integrated into the communities, Ms Wjesurendra believes the residents can have their needs addressed with the necessary care, support, and structure available in formal residential aged care, while also remaining in touch with the wider society.

This is the first study in Australia into emerging community integrated approaches to residential aged care.

Ms Wjesurendra is planning to submit 1-2 journal articles on this research to publications before the end of the year.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – jessica@arh.org.au





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