‘Know me, understand me’: MRFF grant awarded for digital stories in aged care

‘Know me, understand me’: MRFF grant awarded for digital stories in aged care

Students trained in using video for capturing life stories

The life stories and preferences of people living with dementia in aged care facilities will be recorded as part of a four-year $1.35 million project to help provide them with more personalised care and support.

The project will educate healthcare students to conduct reminiscence sessions with individuals living with dementia in residential aged care. The students will then produce a 4-minute life story video and a poster to capture the resident's identity and preferences. The video will be easily accessible through a QR code on the poster.

The research team will compare this approach with usual care to find out if the life story videos help aged care and health staff understand more about the resident so they can provide personalised care and support.

The four-year, $1.35M Medical Research Future Fund Dementia Ageing and Aged Care Grant has been awarded to a team of researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, the University of Queensland and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD).

Chief Investigator, Dr Katrina Anderson from the Aged Care Evaluation Unit (ANU and SNSWLHD) anticipates that this will improve the quality of life of the residents and their family carers.

“This project was born out of our clinical experience in aged care homes where time-pressured care staff often have little information about the person behind the disease when individuals living with dementia first relocate to residential care,” Dr Anderson said.

“Sometimes a small piece of information about the resident’s life can help staff to head off distressing interactions; knowing that someone has a fear of dogs, for example, can change the activities offered to that person.”

Professor Victoria Traynor from University of Wollongong’s (UOW) School of Nursing is leading the UOW effort on the project.

“Having national funding to undertake research with two of our local aged care providers is an excellent opportunity to showcase partnerships across UOW campuses that make a difference.  It has long been known that life story work improves the quality of care for individuals with dementia.  This project is extending the impact of life stories through contemporary approaches. This project uses the untapped potential of digital media and the perspectives of young people to showcase life stories like never before,” Professor Traynor said.

The study evolved from long-standing partnerships with consumer researchers as well as aged care providers: Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care and Warrigal. Advice on translating the project into usual practice will be provided by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Consumer researcher Elaine Todd commented, “If they had had something like this when my mother was in care, it would have made the world of difference.”

More than 50 per cent of residents in aged care homes currently have some form of cognitive impairment, usually dementia.

These people often enter care with little warning and may transition rapidly between the care home and hospitals. It is hoped that the short videos will assist staff in any setting to quickly get to know the person with dementia and what works for them.