It’s always gratifying when research validates the work we do in looking after older New Zealanders, especially when it’s credible, large-scale, and based on internationally accredited assessment tools. An in-depth look at nationwide data has highlighted strong improvements in health, mental health and well-being, pain management and sociability, for elderly people living in aged care facilities.

The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) commissioned the research because they were concerned that many elderly people are receiving inconsistent access to care. There was anecdotal evidence that people who have been assessed as being at risk at home are facing barriers that are not health driven and are staying at home longer than is safe or in their best interests. There were also concerns that decisions around when a person can access residential care and the level of care they receive, vary depending on which region in New Zealand they live.

I believe in people staying in their own home as long as possible, provided they are safe, their health and wellbeing does not suffer, and they are well supported. However, even with home support, an older person may be isolated, lonely, and sacrificing better health. Family support can be put under pressure, and older carers may be struggling to cope, often facing health issues themselves.

A senior data analyst was engaged to examine what happens to the health and social outcomes of an older person when they enter aged residential care. The data comes from resident assessment tools developed by the international not-for-profit organisation interRAI. The interRAI tools, made mandatory in the aged care sector in 2015, use common measures to help doctors and providers improve continuity of care and to bring a person’s care and support services together identifying when help is needed.

The analyst looked at 300,000 anonymous clinical assessments carried out nationwide over the past three years. The resulting report ‘Caring for Our Older Kiwis’ found that there were “significant benefits of aged residential care for an older person’s health and well-being” provided they were given access to the care when needed.

The dedication of our industry is proving valuable. “Analysis shows that across all the key indicators of an older person’s health and well-being, their health outcomes improve over a six-month period after entering a rest home,” says the report. Six months after older people moved into care:

  • 82% no longer felt lonely
  • 74.5% had improved health stability
  • 62.1% had improved mental health
  • 62.6% had improved levels of pain
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