Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA May-Jun 2014 Contents challenging one in which to conduct research,
given it is more resource intensive to survey
individuals in their own homes, as opposed to
as a group in a facility.
For Ian Hardy, CEO of Helping Hand
Aged Care, the essence of the challenge is
to embed research "in the reality of the sector
and the reality of the lives of our clients."
Last October, Hardy was appointed
inaugural chairman of a strategic review
panel to advise the trustees of the J.O. & J.R.
Wicking Trust where to allocate their $4 million
in annual research and innovation grants.
Through that work Hardy and his panel
members are considering the broader issues
of research dissemination and collaborations
in aged care.
Fundamentally, all research initiatives
have to be grounded in the reality of the older
person's experience and the way in which the
provider sector and policy supports that. That
has to be starting point, he says.
From there, Hardy says, translation of
research into practice is made easier because
all the stakeholders - researchers, providers,
clients and, perhaps, policy makers - have
a common understanding of the intent and
methodology behind the research.
Interestingly, Squires notes the knowledge
translation challenge may be greater in
community care, as residential care, driven
by the accreditation process, has long been
focussed on 'quality improvement' and
ensuring processes are up to date.
"People in residential care are fairly good
at that; you have things like the Joanna Briggs
evidence-based guidelines. In community care
there is very little of that out there."
To address this, IRT produced a 'research
to practice guide' for community care workers
during a recent project with Alzheimer's Australia
NSW. Such guides could play an important
role in getting latest research findings out to
community care workers and helping them apply
it in their daily work, Squires believes.
Warburton says researchers need to
distribute findings back to the sector routinely,
so that the implications can ideally be
assessed by collaborations with the field.
"However, practitioners also need to bring
their skills to bear. Partners from the sector
may be needed to assess the implications
of the research, as this may not be the
researcher's strength," she says.
SETTING THE AGENDA
Beyond the challenges of designing realistic
and relevant research and disseminating its
findings, the sector is considering how it can
shape the research agenda and influence
what areas are funded.
Squires says IRT's annual competitive grants
prioritise those researchers who are addressing
questions that are relevant to the big issues.
She points to the community care research
agenda developed in 2010 by the AAG, the joint
Australian Research Council (ARC) and National
Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Research Network in Ageing Well, and ACSA.
"The questions it developed looked at
community care, mental health care, people
living alone, transport, housing. These are not
the first questions most researchers tend to go
towards, but it's where the main game is. We
are trying to encourage researchers to think
seriously about researching this group of older
people living in their own homes."
Squires says that for the same reasons
researchers prefer residential aged care, the
funders of research tend to favour quantitative
"medical type, double blind randomly
The challenge is helping the government's
funding mechanisms, the NHMRC and the
ARC, to understand the complexity of ageing,
the importance of multidisciplinary research
and the value of qualitative research, she says.
"That it doesn't all have to be microscopes
and blood tests."
This, she argues, is where the relevant
stakeholders, which include the AAG, Council
on the Ageing, National Seniors and the
provider peaks, can advocate and influence.
"We need to keep our voices firmly raised
around Australia's ageing population; these
are new issues and they require a new
approach to research," says Squires.
Hardy, meantime, points to the NHMRC
partnership centre in cognitive decline as an
emerging model of aged services working with
researchers and funders to influence the agenda.
Helping Hand is involved in the centre
along with Brightwater, HammondCare and
Alzheimer's Australia. The Department of
Social Services participates as an observer,
bringing the policy perspective.
The partnership centre arose out of a
review which encouraged the NHMRC to
engage more with key sectors. Six initial
partnership centres were proposed, the
cognitive decline centre being the first.
"That really will be the way of the future,"
Hardy says. "There is now a growing
recognition within academia that industry
engagement will be the basis of research
activity, and we will all be the better for it."
While the focus of discussion about research
in aged care is often on clinical
and operational areas, the issue is much
more far reaching. Take facility design,
According to a global survey of 400
architecture practices by Dr Darragh
O'Brien, head of the Architectural Research
Consultancy (ARC), 60 per cent of the
healthcare architects surveyed did not
regularly engage with latest research to
inform their designs, and just 20 per cent
conducted a post-occupancy analysis.
This means that, troublingly, the aged care
client and the architect are relying on each
other's expertise and knowledge to guide
the design of a project, and neither may be
engaging with latest research.
"There is an expectation among the
client that architects already understand
the role of the environment and the impact
it has. What they don't understand is that
most architects do not engage in reviewing
research from other fields," says O'Brien,
who founded ARC in 2010 to establish
connections between academia, government
He says the reason many do not review
new research is because it is often not readily
accessible. "In addition, our study indicates
that if clients do not require architects to be
familiar with the latest research, then it is less
likely to happen."
O'Brien argues that in order to design
environments that effectively support those
living with dementia or requiring palliative
care, architecture firms, aged care peak
bodies, providers and clinicians must be
engaged in ongoing research.
"It's one thing to review work been
done in the US or Germany, it's another
thing to understand how it relates to what's
happening in the local context," he says.
Crucially, O'Brien says the findings
would be shared freely among the research
stakeholders - providers, architects, policy
"We argue that in this new environment
of consumer directed care the demand for
best practice will grow, and the best way
to demonstrate your commitment to best
practice will be through your engagement
in research - individually and as part of an
ARC is currently working on a new
journal entitled Evidence-Base Design, the
first issue of which will focus on aged
care design. n
"One of the banes of my life is
researchers who come with a really
detailed plan about how they're going
to do their research; it's very elegantly
designed, but the problem is it's
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