Sue Cowan from the John Richards Initiative in the Faculty of Health Sciences at La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga campus has been involved in a collaborative project as part of a Wangaratta-based group focusing on aged-care assessment.
Ms Cowan says that older people living in rural areas tend to have poorer health and to be disadvantaged in terms of access to support services. The project aimed to explore integrative assessment processes for older people who are entering the aged care system in northeast Victoria.
‘It can be difficult for ageing people to transition smoothly into the aged care system, partly due to the fragmentation of processes between aged care organisations, including various health assessment services,’ says Ms Cowan.
Ms Cowan has collaborated on the project with Fiona MacPhee, Program Manager of the Integrated Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS), Ovens and King Community Health Service. Together with other members of the steering committee, they have conducted an 18-month project funded by the Central Hume Primary Care Partnership.
Of 517 abstracts – summaries of research to be presented – received by the National Rural Health (NRH) Conference organisers, Ms Cowan and Ms MacPhee’s abstract was ranked number 1. The abstract was judged against a range of criteria, including strength of analysis, breadth of research across sectors that influence the lives of rural people, and relevance to current health issues in rural and remote Australia.
‘This collaborative project has explored what is needed at a local level in communities in order to develop an integrated model of assessment and align the work of specialist assessment teams,’ says Ms Cowan.
‘Assessment informs people’s entrance into care, as well as informing the direction that their care takes once they are in the system.’
‘Ultimately, this research enhances our knowledge base for improving the gateway to the aged care system in rural areas.’
Ms MacPhee says that the project provides accurate information on people’s experience of aged care assessment in the Rural City of Wangaratta.
‘This data is really important as it forms a solid foundation from which we can then look at how to improve the aged care assessment process for older people and their families,’ says Ms MacPhee. ‘Of course, these improvements must take place within the context of federal and state policy, as well as regional initiatives.’
Ms Cowan says that she and Ms MacPhee appreciate the opportunity to present their research at the NRH Conference. ‘The conference provides an important opportunity to gather together the key issues that influence the lives of rural Australians,’ says Ms Cowan.
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