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Largest Study of Older Person’s Care Launched

Largest Study of Older Person’s Care Launched in Christchurch

One of the most significant studies in the world to evaluate alternatives to residential care for older people was being launched in Christchurch last week.

The three-year study has received $1 million in government funding and is a collaborative project between The University of Auckland, the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards in Canterbury, Hutt Valley and the Waikato.

Principal Investigator in the University of Auckland Dr Matthew Parsons says the project will evaluate three community schemes that support older people to remain living at home. The schemes have been set up under the direction of the Ministry of Health and each takes a different approach to community care.

A randomised controlled trial will be undertaken in each city and older people will be randomised to either receive the new service or continue to receive the usual care from the Needs Assessment and Service Co-ordination service. In Christchurch, Older People are pre-randomised through their GP. The Older Person will be invited to learn more about the study by giving their agreement to be contacted by the research staff.

“Older people in residential homes have higher rates of depression, lower life expectancy and higher fall rates than those in private home. With this research, we are evaluating the alternatives to residential care to look at best practice for caring for older people,” he says.

The project, called Assessment of Services Promoting Independence and Recovery in Elders (ASPIRE), will study older people who live at home and are assessed as having high or very high health and disability needs. Their health and wellbeing, along with those in the control group who receive the usual care, will be assessed at baseline, three, six, 12, 18 and 24 months.

“As well as the older person, we also want to get a picture of how living at home affects the people around them. So we will be monitoring the stress levels of carers, stress levels of family members, the cost of care, and any financial output by the older people,” he says.

After three years the researchers will have a good picture of what does and does not work. These results will be used by the Ministry of Health to replicate services around the country.

Dr Parsons says the aim of alternative care is to keep older people active, which increases their quality of life, and to provide a network of care that allows them to remain in their homes without becoming a burden on family and friends.

“We now have an ageing population and there are a lot of changes we need to bring about to cope with this. But the fact that the Ministry of Health is investing heavily in trying to provide these alternatives is good news,” he says.

Dr Parsons says little research has been undertaken into alternative care for older people anywhere in the world, and health providers around the world have already expressed interest in the results.

The project will be launched by Ruth Dyson, the Minister of Senior Citizens and Associate Minister of Health, in Christchurch on Friday afternoon.

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