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Test gives staff insight into quality of life in community care

The researchers behind a survey tool that measures quality of life in community care have held a public seminar to detail its potential to contribute to understanding changes in the delivery of age services.

The team, comprising researchers from Macquarie University and the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the University of Wollongong, was awarded an Australian Research Council linkage grant to develop the Australian Community Care Outcomes Measure (ACCOM), which aims to ensure that clients get the assistance and service important to them.

Macquarie lead professor Michael Fine said: “Because it is difficult at present to assess the impact of providing care, it is easy for staff, clients or family carers to lose hope, or to become distressed about the problems faced by those who need help. This is where outcome measures come into play. They provide a standard way of measuring improvement, stability or deterioration in the most important aspects of an individual’s life.”

When consumers complete the ACCOM, providers receive information on a number of different concerns, such as whether people feel they have control over their daily activities, whether they’re getting enough food and whether they feel they are engaging in meaningful social participation.

Case managers answer the same questions about the client and can later compare their perception of a client’s quality of life with the client’s own feelings.

Researcher Dr Beatriz Cardona from Macquarie University’s Department of Sociology said case managers can use this information to think about the care plan and improvements to how the service is being delivered.

The tool also includes an open question, which allows consumers to elaborate on issues that are important to them or that might not be addressed specifically in the tool.

To ensure the ACCOM is meaningful and practical, the researchers have partnered with community aged-care service providers The Whiddon Group, BaptistCare, Community Options Australia and KinCare.

Karn Nelson, executive general manager of strategy and research at The Whiddon Group, said seeing a comparison between clients’ feelings about their own quality of life their case managers’ perceptions of their wellbeing has been valuable for staff.

“It gives them a real indicator of how well they’re actually meeting client needs and where there are gaps and differences,” Nelson explained. “They can home in on those areas where they see a need, broaden the conversation with the client and understand why there is a difference.”

The research team has also been working in partnership with professor Ann Netten from the University of Kent, who was involved in developing the Adult Social Care Outcomes Toolkit (ASCOT), a UK-developed measure that several countries have adopted.

The ASCOT was designed to capture information about an individual’s social care-related quality of life and formed the basis for the Australian tool.

Whiddon was also involved in the ASCOT trail and the group has deployed it across its residential aged-care facilities. Nelson said the group had learned a lot about the tool and how it helps improve care planning.

“We’ve been trialling it in residential age care in four services and it’s part of our initial care planning conversations, where we [engage] residents, their family members and dedicated care staff members, and use it as a conversation. We call it a circle of care methodology,” Nelson explained. “Working in each of those domains, it gives us a structure to discuss their broad needs and desires and how well we’re supporting them. It gives our RNs, who are conducting these ASCOT conversations, a good structure for doing this.”

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