Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 24, 2018 in Technology
Today’s older generation would remember manual typewriters and public phone boxes. Some might even recall when television first entered people’s homes.
The technology explosion in recent decades may seem overwhelming to many. But it promises countless benefits for older adults.
Not only can it enhance social engagement and leisure time, technology could help retain independence and provide peace of mind for family members.
Wearable devices are used by fitness enthusiasts to monitor heart rate and energy expenditure. They can also track blood pressure and blood sugar levels to enable health monitoring and preventive medicine for older adults.
Cloud-based software enables this information to be collected and sent to doctors, making it easier for them to collate health data and deliver care remotely.
New software for the devices also includes mobile connectivity for ease of contacting family any time and GPS tracking to check older relatives’ location.
Other researchers from Monash University have been working on a non-invasive home monitoring apparatus that can gather data on normal movement patterns and send alerts when someone has been uncharacteristically inactive for a long period of time.
The devices are designed to be plugged into power points throughout the house, so they bypass the need for cameras to maintain privacy.
These technologies offer benefits for aged care as well. Providing professionals with comprehensive health data can free them up to deliver preventive and more personalised care.
The monitoring systems could reduce staff burden and improve patient safety.
“Currently, we rely on passing staff members to discover patients or residents after they have experienced an incident,” says Steven Faux from St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
“The value of the sensors is that the movements can be detected without affecting a patient’s privacy.”
Telehealth is defined by the International Organisation for Standardisation as “the use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance”.
This has obvious advantages for farmers and other rural dwellers in Australia’s outback, whose technology perks already include internet banking, shopping e-commerce.
Telehealth offers further benefits in health care, including diagnosis, treatment and preventive medicine, and overcoming challenges of distance and relocating health professionals.
Medical consultations using video conferencing, data, images and information can be transmitted without the need for physical travel or relocation.
Grafton Base Hospital in northern NSW is successfully using Telehealth to improve care in surrounding Residential Aged Care Facilities and reduce hospital admissions.
The cost savings are obvious, but there are several hurdles to overcome. This includes perception and acceptance of the technology and potential privacy issues.
Other obstacles include computer illiteracy, training and support, initial setup costs, and legal challenges related to managing the rapid growth of health data, health information transfer and remote consultations.
Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 19, 2018 in Technology
It’s been said that “to live is to play”. A bonus of aging is more time for leisurely pursuits. Indeed, a 2016 UK study reported that leisure activities and hobbies were by far the most popular aspirations for older adults.
While for many that might mean reading that long list of books or hitting some golf balls, our technocratic society has a smorgasbord of other entertainment options – including gaming and robots.
And the technologies are not just for fun – researchers are exploring ways they can improve health and quality of life.
German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom is leading the way with the game Sea Hero Quest. “More than a game”, they say, it’s a “quest to save the human brain”.
Players chart a course as a sea captain “through complex waterways, desert islands and icy oceans”, meeting challenges and gaining ratings to entice them to keep playing.
In the process, they role play a sailor whose father is losing his memory, and have to rely on old sea journals to help piece his past together.
This relates to the game’s dual purpose: while providing entertainment, it also gathers real-time data on players’ eye, head and navigation movements for dementia research.
Navigational skills are one of the first to fail with dementia onset, so the aim is to provide a more advanced early detection system for this degenerative neurological disease.
They’re well on their way – just two minutes of playing Sea Hero Quest delivers around 5 hours’ worth of lab-based research. So far, they have data equating to more than 12,000 years of research in the lab.
Other researchers are involved in the Worthplay project. Its focus is researching prototype digital games for older adults, to develop interactive games that can contribute to active aging and enhanced wellbeing.
Paro is a soft, cuddly robot that looks like a baby harp seal. He has a soothing effect on aged care residents, according to Vicki Boyd from the Gunther Village aged care home in Queensland.
Using artificial intelligence, he responds to touch with movement and sound, and like a pet, provides comfort and companionship. Aged care workers have found his calming influence a great help for dementia patients, who can become distressed and agitated. They’ve also found that he can provide a point of conversation and jokes, hence facilitating social interaction.
Another “emotionally intelligent” robot is called Bobby, a Japanese social robot designed to provide support and friendship.
Rajiv Khosla, professor at La Trobe university, says his evaluations found that Bobby robots – who look more like a mini R2D2 – helped older adults feel more relaxed and productive.
On a more practical front, other researchers are working on robots that can assist with activities of daily living to help older adults retain independence and reduce caregiver burden. This might include housework, eating, bathing, dressing and standing up.
The robots could remind people to eat or take their medication, sense when they fall over and sound an alarm, or even – looking further ahead – ferry them to doctors’ appointments as autonomous cars become a reality.
In 2015, Helping Hand aged care centres implemented an innovative, 12-week exercise program. They wanted to see if it could improve cognitive and functional abilities in older adults with significant memory loss or dementia.
The Exercise Physiology in Aged Care Project, led by exercise physiologist Alison Penington, prescribes individually tailored activities to match the skill levels and personal preferences of residents.
Gaynor Parfitt, associate professor in exercise and sports psychology at the University of South Australia, has been evaluating the program and says, “we’ve really been very positively blown away by the impact that the exercise has had.”
Listening to staff interviews, Parfitt said one worker was laughing as she described finding a “stand-assist” resident – who could not stand or walk unassisted – standing up and walking in her room. “She said afterwards, it’s that sort of OMG, I never expected to see that happen.”
Initially, some were sceptical about doing exercise with this population, who are 86 years old on average and “severely declined”. But Parfitt says, “overwhelmingly it’s dispelled the idea that these people are just on one downward trajectory”.
Staff reported improvements in residents’ behaviour, socialisation, communication and alertness. Even language started coming back. Residents became more communicative and started using fuller sentences.
They started socialising and smiling more, as they did some exercises together like passing a medicine ball around.
Family members described being able to hold conversations, and the exercises gave them a point of conversation – or even something they could engage in with them. One man who visits his wife, for instance, started doing the exercises as well.
Because the activities improved their mobility, dressing residents became easier, and they became more independent in activities of daily living, like brushing their hair or teeth.
The exercise physiologists who ran the program prescribe physical activities that individuals find fun and can achieve within their own limits.
“One of the reasons that people tend to stop being active,” Parfitt says, “is because of the fear of falling.” It’s important that they feel safe, and individually targeted activities can overcome this limitation to being active.
Moving beyond aged care, Helping Hand is developing a walking trails program for community dwelling adults that can be adapted to different skill levels; for instance with different trail lengths and difficulties and places for people to sit down and catch their breath.
The key message is to get up and move a bit more than what people are doing.
And the capability of patients who are thought to be severely incapacitated is more than staff believed was possible. “So it’s now actually challenging them to spend more time encouraging them to walk,” Parfitt reports.
This environmental transformation reveals the ripple effects of the program. “It’s changed how people perceived how life can be,” says Parfitt, “and I think that’s quite marked.”
Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 3, 2018 in Aged Care
Welcome news for the aged care sector – the Australian government has announced that a long sought-after royal commission will investigate an “industry in crisis” amidst harrowing reports of older adults being subjected to substandard care.
This follows revelations of horrific conditions at the Oakden facility last year, resulting in a national Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, streamlining of complaints and crackdown on departures from quality care.
Since then, the Department of Health has reportedly closed one aged-care facility nearly every month, and another 17 centres have sanctions enforced.
Complaints to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner increased to 4,300 for residential aged care in the last financial year, while 5,780 complaints were lodged for home and community care.
In a time-honoured example of ordinary people spurring action, the commission was announced as courageous aged care workers spoke to Four Corners last month.
They were just some of the 1300 aged care workers and more than 4,000 family, industry and staff members who contacted the show from across Australia for its crowd-sourced initiative.
It’s not just the stories that have grabbed media attention, like the 70-year old resident who died after being assaulted by another patient or the 99-year old female patient who was sexually assaulted by a male carer.
More broadly, it’s “the everyday stories of neglect and inattention, poor quality food, lack of personal care, boredom and heart-breaking loneliness,” according to presenter Sarah Ferguson.
Stories include residents – who have complex care needs – getting a quick face wipe in lieu of a shower, being left in bed all day, overmedicated for easier management, left in a hot room with no fan, and having a commode full of faeces left next to their bed.
Not only that, but malnutrition is a pervasive issue in older adults and particularly those in aged care.
“There were people that were in bed that needed to be fully fed, they couldn’t feed themselves at all,” said one worker.
“And you’d see staff members just quickly go in, offer the resident a bit of food, and if they didn’t take it immediately, just go out and ditch the lunch. You can see these people are so hungry.”
Even if they had time and support to eat, the food quality leaves much to be desired. With a reported spend of $6 per day per resident, the food was “very ordinary,” according to a worker.
“Dinner time was like a couple of patty pies and a scoop of mashed potato,” she said.
“We would get sausage rolls, curry puffs, and marshmallows for dessert,” said another.
The program revealed that the growing ageing industry is currently worth more than $22 billion each year.
Glossy advertisements promote residential facilities like luxury hotels. But, a personal care assistant said, “They’re being sugar coated. They’re being fed a picture, a story that in reality is very untrue.”
“Often it’s the quality of the building, the amenity of the grounds, that’s what’s being sold,” reported an aged care consultant. Often what’s not clear is the quality of the people in the building.”
Low staff numbers are a fundamental issue. One enrolled nurse reported that between her and a registered nurse, they had to look after 72 residents.
And 70 percent of personal care attendants have had only six weeks’ training.
Hopefully, now that the heat is on, the royal commission will act quickly – not only to prevent further neglect but to enhance quality of life. That includes putting mandatory nutrition standards in place.