Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA May-Jun 2017 Contents T
he prevalence and progression of dementia
poses a significant issue for healthcare
expenditure and utilisation internationally.
Programs that can reduce healthcare
needs for individual with dementia will have
important future implications.
To address this, work from our team shows
that aquatic exercise has positive physical and
psychosocial benefits for Australians living with
dementia in the aged care sector, particularly
when compared to current models of care.
With participation in our program, people
with dementia experienced positive changes in
behaviours and activities of daily living, as well as
a resistance in the transition into sarcopenia, and
reduced anxiety and depression.
In addition, staff burden as a product of
unpredictable behaviours was also reduced.
Given the increasing direct and indirect
financial and emotional cost associated to a
diagnosis of dementia the outcomes of our work
should be considered positive and encouraging.
Approaches are gaining momentum
As both a preventative and treatment for
dementia, physical activity and exercise are
building a strong reputation.
It has long been established that an increased
level of exercise or physical activity engagement
is associated to a reduced risk of developing
dementia, independent of the modality of
participation. Recent work has even gone so far
as to show that with participation, cognition can
be enhanced and areas of the brain enlarged.
Acknowledging the positive role of exercise,
in 2014 Alzheimer’s Australia NSW released
a discussion paper encouraging adults with
dementia to become involved. Within this
document, numerous personal testimonials about
the importance of participation were presented
alongside a breadth of benefit.
Even the ver y old with advanced dementia
can benefit. A recent systematic review on the
effect of exercise for health and wellbeing among
people with dementia in the aged care sector
concluded that while more research rigour was
required to be definitive, emerging evidence
supported the value of participation.
In addition to the physical benefits, our work
and others also show psychosocial benefits such
as improved behaviours and mood.
Poor uptake in aged care
Nevertheless, despite the growing research and
anecdotal evidence, and personal testimonial
supporting a model of care that delivers
exercise to people with dementia, few aged care
providers have moved to incorporating it into
their ser vices.
During a recent recruitment for our
Watermemories Swimming Club aquatic exercise
program for people with advanced dementia,
we approached 24 residential aged care facilities
within a 30-kilometre radius in the Brisbane area.
Even with a strong program reputation, the
promise of financial support and client benefit
through participation, only one facility, Bupa
Aged Care New Farm, agreed to participate.
Discussions with the ser vice managers of
the remaining 23 facilities revealed the biggest
challenge to participation was that they were
under-resourced and under-staffed.
Playing a primar y role in this are recent
Australian aged care reforms that have placed
strain on aged care providers and, in turn,
facilities managers were concerned they would
have insufficient staff to assist participants to and
from sessions, inclusive of the dedicated on-site
and off-site attention each individual required.
These concerns were most pertinent among
the not-for-profit facilities and were echoed by the
ethics committees of the organisations approached.
The challenges associated with reductions
in aged care funding are not limited to the
recruitment process in research projects. The
concerns about reliance on facility resources
was that they
There is mounting evidence showing the benefit of exercise for people with
dementia in aged care, but funding is among the issues hindering take-up
of programs, writes DR TIM HENWOOD.
It pays to get residents active
50 | MAY–JUNE2017
DEMENTIA n INFECTION CONTROL
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