Chair: Deborah Hitchen-Holmes
a. The 10k Project: A community-centred approach to ageing well
Dr Alison Rahn
A whole of population approach to ageing and dying well and ‘in place’ is a move towards social and collective responsibility for our ageing population. It requires a re-imagination of aged services and communities. For service providers, the challenge is to work with people in respectful partnerships which promote empowerment and wellness. For the community, it means stepping up to the responsibility of including and caring for each other over the whole of the life course. What happens when a community development perspective is applied to residential aged care to bring the community in? While the individual and collective benefits of social networks are well recognised, little is being done to move towards network-centred care for our expanding ageing populations. The goal of the 10K Project, a collaboration between The Groundswell Project, Southern Cross Care and Western Sydney University, was to develop an effective community development model for the aged care sector that could be replicated. It aimed to identify and overcome possible barriers to implementing community development and discover examples of best practice. Methods adopted involved social network mapping, interviews and focus groups before, during and after placement of a community development worker embedded in an aged care facility. Pre-intervention, residents reported feeling lonely and socially isolated and desired more social connection. With the introduction of the community development worker, the tension between the needs of the organisation and the needs of the community became evident. Communication was identified as a central issue. The question then became how to resolve these tensions. This presentation reports on preliminary findings of this project and focuses on identified barriers and opportunities associated with a community development model in residential aged care.
b. Why should I care? Building communities of care for the elderly and dying in the university classroom
This presentation will focus on the objectives and impact of a new interdisciplinary course developed through a partnership between St Vincent’s Care, Karuna Hospice Service and Griffith University (Schools of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, and School of Medicine). The course is part of a research initiative seeking to develop new and innovative ways to better meet the needs of the elderly and dying. It was created and has worked to provide students in the arts, humanities, social sciences and healthcare disciplines with an opportunity to learn about the reality facing the elderly and dying and to actively contribute to their care. The course raises awareness – particularly in young adults – about the challenges of ageing and end of life; it facilitates open discussions of these challenges, of the successes and shortfalls of current models of care, and serves to identify and develop innovative ways to improve the quality of life and care of the elderly and dying. In the initial part of the course, students undergo intensive training in biography writing and working with vulnerable patients through in-class simulations, role plays and focused group discussions. Each student is then assigned to a long-term/palliative care client and, working closely with them, assists in writing the client biography. Throughout the semester, drawing on assigned readings (fiction, philosophy, specialized articles), films and documentaries, students explore key challenges facing the elderly and dying as well as shortfalls in current socio-cultural approaches to these challenges through discussions and written assignments. At the end of the course, students submit a self-reflection on their experience of the course and biography process. Residents and clients are also interviewed by the research team for feedback on their experience of the biography process.
c. Is digital storytelling a useful method for uncovering the views of people with dementia?
In response to rising rates of dementia, governments have instigated policies and programmes that promote community living for people with dementia from diagnosis to death. Yet research and practice remains dominated by professional views. This is a significant gap given that the perspectives of people with dementia are essential for supporting 'dementia friendly' neighbourhood and communities.
The literature argues that creative methods facilitate people with dementia’s ability to define and convey their experience in their own terms. Digital stories are a type of creative method which elicit personal narratives in the form of short videos. Crafting them with people with dementia has already been cited as a useful therapeutic tool. What has not been explored is how they might be effective for investigating other aspects of their experiences.
To investigate the utility and feasibility of digital stories to capture and convey the views of people with dementia as part of a project examining what support they need to live well at home.
Using excerpts from videos co-created with five people with dementia, the presentation will discuss the findings that centre on the adaptation of the digital storytelling method to this cohort. We will also explore the participants’ views on the co-creation process and the role of the participants’ family members in the research.
Digital stories offer a means for foregrounding the views of people with dementia. By doing so they serve as a valuable tool for crafting support centred on a compassionate communities approach.