With ageing, people often have complex health issues that can impact their physical function, independence and quality of life, and require specialised support from allied health professionals.
Ageing also presents communication barriers when accessing healthcare, such as limited hearing, speech difficulties, lack of language proficiency or cognitive impairment. People can end up frustrated, depressed and isolated. The need for mask-wearing during infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19 further exacerbates communication challenges.
Allied health makes a difference
The role of allied health in aged care has traditionally been underestimated and underfunded, but it can make all the difference for people with age-related physical function limitations.
Since 2018, Guide Healthcare’s Allied Health Team has partnered with 12 residential aged care homes and retirement living communities across Australia, to provide permanent full-time on-site allied health services.
With a focus on rehabilitation and re-ablement, Guide Healthcare’s mission is to guide clients towards setting and achieving meaningful goals, through innovative resident-specific programs.
Collaboration with Eventide Homes Stawell
Eventide Homes Stawell saw the need for better allied health support, and through a partnership with Guide Healthcare, there are now two allied health professionals on-site.
The close interface with aged care residents highlighted the need for communication supports, particularly after one resident who is deaf and has cognitive impairmnent displayed challenging behaviours and found it difficult to communicate with staff.
On-site Occupational Therapist Elizabeth Jacob developed laminated communcation cards, using suggestions from Eventide’s carers, which proved helpful. This then inspired the development of the Care Cards App, to improve how carers communicate with their clients.
An app for communication
It is sadly the case that a lot of resources and programs provided for our older population are simplified and delivered in such a way as to infantilise the individual, and previous communication apps were only aimed at children.
Designed by Elizabeth and Physiotherapist Simon Kerrigan, the Care Cards App uses simple language to communicate key aspects of everyday care including activities or daily living, transfers, mobility and general care. The cards have been designed to be simple to read, and targetted at adults.
Now available on Google Play, the app is particularly helpful for people with a hearing impairment or speaking difficulty, but who still have good vision. It allows for the resident to communicate their needs in a respectful way that maintains their level of choice and dignity.
The resident who inspired the idea for the app has shown significantly higher engagement and satisfaction levels as well as a significant decrease in challenging behaviours, as a result of being able to communicate.
The simple ability to indicate a need or want as well as to have communicated to you what is needed or wanted of you to assist you in your daily life, is of immeasurable benefit to individuals in aged care and their carers.
As the app is used, there will be further enhancements based on feedback and a desire for continuous improvement, to best support older people and uphold their right to make their own decisions about the care they receive.
The Care Cards App is an example of how a multidisciplinary partnership, with the support of an aged care provider, can transform the way we provide aged care services.
Guide Healthcare Allied Health Team with Eventide Homes Stawell was Winner of the innovAGEING Enhancing Consumer Experience Award 2020.