Dr Kathy Peri has one of the Selwyn Foundation’s famous robotic seals on her table.

“I’m giving a talk to secondary school students later, and I want to show that gerontology nursing can be sexy,” she laughs.

Peri is passionate about how we can improve health outcomes for older people, both in residential aged care and through home and community support services. She has spent most of her nursing and academic career on this topic, and will talk to this subject at the Selwyn Foundation’s upcoming Gerontology Nursing Conference.

“I’m interested in how we get away from the task-oriented model of care,” says Peri.

Of course, robots and other innovative technologies are just one part of helping to achieve this goal. She agrees that it is complex and is mindful that business models of care can conflict with the social aspect of care. Funding constraints are perceived by the sector as a barrier.

However, Peri’s research suggests a way forwards. In her view, a multi-faceted team approach is essential for achieving a truly person-centred model of care. It stems from the strategic direction and leadership of a facility, to the physical environment, right through to the care delivery itself.

She says Selwyn is on the right path to achieving this with its new household format supported by a model of care that is all about the resident.

Peri is delighted that caregivers have achieved better pay. She believes that while caregivers’ pay and qualifications are under scrutiny we should be looking at delivering a better skill mix for caregivers that underpins the person-centred ethos.

She also feels that the salaries of RNs’ working in aged care facilities should be brought in line with their counterparts working in DHBs, to attract younger nurses and make it a more appealing career pathway.

In her view, an effective person-centred care model must have strong leadership.

“If you haven’t got a great advocate for older people, it won’t work,” she says.

Peri was one of the first gerontology nurse specialists in the country. She is Director of Nursing at the Totara Hospice, South Auckland and coordinates the Gerontology papers at the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing.

Her career journey has seen her become a strong advocate for Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST), an evidence-based intervention for people with mild to moderate dementia. Over the past 18 months, she’s trained around 200 facilitators in New Zealand and around 50 in Australia to roll out group-based CST. The next step is to provide CST for individuals, and Peri is working with an HCSS provider to make this happen.

Excitingly, the initiative has earned the support of the Brain Research New Zealand who will help support a workshop symposium next year to learn what worked, what didn’t and what’s next.

Peri travels around the country occasionally to oversee the CST facilitators carrying out the group sessions. At one of these sessions in Rotorua recently, an older gentleman came up to her and said, “Thank you for getting my memory back”.

Peri says those words made it entirely worth all the effort.

Selwyn Foundation Gerontology Nursing Conference will be held Thursday 24th August, Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre, Mt Wellington, Auckland. To find out more about the conference you can visit here.

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