Patients hospitalised with dementia and/or delirium are now being provided with companionship and practical assistance from trained volunteers thanks to a partnership between health services and aged care.
A program titled MyCare Ageing has been implemented across three Melbourne based hospitals, Alfred Health, Peninsula Health and Monash Health, which sees volunteers trained by not-for-profit organisation, Baptcare, to provide support to patients while they are in hospital and as they transition home.
Supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of the Rapid Applied Research Translation program through Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre and the NHMRC, Researcher Dr Darshini Ayton says the work is critical for our ageing population.
“As our population ages, reducing falls, dehydration and distress among hospitalised people with dementia and/or delirium will become increasingly important to shorten hospital stays and achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes. This vulnerable cohort requires a level of support that is not purely medical – it includes companionship and practical support which can be hard to achieve in the hospital setting due to resourcing,” said Dr Ayton.
“Through MyCare Ageing it is hoped that we can prevent people revisiting hospital, particularly in those first 30 days, providing them with the support they need when they are back home, extending companionship and practical support, and linking them into community programs that might prove helpful,” said Dr Ayton.
The program has so far seen 50 volunteers trained through Baptcare, many of whom became involved as they had a family member with dementia and wanted to either know how to look after them better or give support to others who needed it.
It is hoped this program provides an opportunity to build further capacity in this area.
“I want to see us train a large labour force of volunteers who are not only trained and equipped to be in hospitals and communities but have an increased understanding of what it is like to look after someone with dementia. The larger the force, the bigger the impact,” said Dr Ayton.
Funding provided by Monash Partners Academic Health Service Centre and the NHMRC will allow for a randomised controlled trial, process evaluation and cost analysis of the program to provide an evidence base for expanding the program throughout other health services.
“For a long time, health services have been trying to solve this problem on their own. Through this collaborative unique approach, we can look to address these types of big health issues we face and achieve a solution together,” said Dr Ayton.
“Our ultimate aim is that the MyCare Ageing program becomes embedded across our hospital system. But before this can be achieved we will continue to use our funding to work on implementation and evaluation,” said Dr Ayton.