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Allied health and nursing role in aged care demand

New Zealand,University of Auckland,aged care,allie
Photo: New Zealand,University of Auckland,aged care,allie
New Zealand’s allied health and nursing workforce has a role to play in finding solutions to alleviate the increasing demand on residential aged care, according to a researcher behind a new study.

University of Auckland’s Freemasons Department of Geriatric Medicine senior research fellow Joanna Broad said delaying or averting entry to residential care, for older people who would prefer to stay at home where feasible, could avert growing demand for residential aged care.

“Stepping up the work on ways to provide adequate/excellent care at home may be one avenue - a range of community-based supports and initiatives can be explored,” she said.

“Because many who enter aged care do so directly from an acute hospital stay, one aspect is evaluating and improving post-discharge care and rehabilitation following acute hospital admissions.
“Allied health workers and nurses will have other suggestions that could be tested. Their voices need to be heard.”

Ms Broad was the leader in a study, recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, which found almost half of New Zealanders, aged 65 and over, will move into residential aged care before they die.

With figures showing 38 per cent of those aged 65-plus in New Zealand die in residential aged care, researchers examined the extent of people living in residential aged care who die during stays in acute hospitals.

They found another nine per cent die during those hospital stays, taking the total to 47 per cent.

“We know from our data that this is an under-estimate, so about half of all older New Zealanders will move into care at some stage of their lives,” Ms Broad said.

“That contrasts greatly with the estimate of five to six percent of people aged 65-plus living in care at any one time, in NZ and in other countries.

“We think this will be of interest to people and their families planning their retirement, and to health service providers, government agencies, organisations supporting older people, and to insurance companies.”

Researchers found the median overall estimates of lifetime use of residential aged care for people aged 65-plus varied among other countries.

The median report for United States was 41 per cent, Finland stood at 47 per cent, the United Kingdom at 28 per cent, and Australia ranged between 34 and 53 per cent.

With an ageing population and increasing longevity, researchers pointed to a need to monitor residential aged care use and to better understand the pressures that lead to residential aged care entry and the determinants of length of stay.

Ms Broad said the study shows the residential aged care model of late-life has become the norm for New Zealand and many other countries by the age of 85.

After 85, more than 58 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women in New Zealand move into aged care.

“What is important is that population ageing will see large growth of those aged 85-plus years,” she said.

“It is likely we will see large increases in the demand for residential aged care. That will mean there will need to be more staff, including care-givers and nurses, and because long-term care is expensive, much more funding.

“Concerns exist in many countries about the ability to find, train and retain residential aged care workers and these are well documented.

“It is important to evaluate strategies thoroughly, as well-intended interventions may just use valuable resources (funding and personnel) without any benefit.” 

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords