A social intervention program run out of the University of Queensland is providing significant benefits for aged care facilities and the residents within them.
The Good Neighbour program, from its inception to implementation, has aimed to improve the quality of life and care felt by residents in residential aged care facilities.
The resounding success of the program is being echoed by many working in the sector, who feel that the students involved are breathing new life into a sector that has been under considerable strain.
In a time when the Royal Commission into the aged care sector has raised considerable concerns about the welfare of many, programs such as the Good Neighbour program are set to bring about much needed change.
Countless studies and research initiatives have discovered that community and consistent social contact are vital components for humans to flourish.
Unfortunately as constraints on budget, staffing and consequently time have become evident within the aged care sector, employees at RACFs have articulated their frustration at not being able to spend enough time with residents.
UQ PhD candidate Nicole Walker spoke about the core visions of the program, “It is a social intervention for residents who are isolated and have little social support outside the facility,”
“UQ students volunteer their time and work on building relationships with the residents, many of whom have mental health and behavioural issues, as well as age-related decline.”
Encouragingly, Walker speaks of the positive reception the Good Neighbour has been receiving from staff.
“Staff in the facility have reported a sense of being more supported in the workplace since the program started in 2016, having more time to devote to the residents’ clinical care. They have told us there is a huge change in the energy in the facility when the students are there, and they are seeing improvements in resident behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia.”
The program, currently made up of psychology students, is set to broaden to both medical and other allied health students.
Nicole Walker explains that while being both an opportunity to develop professionally and learn new skills, the program has a greater focus to help foster positive attitudes in and towards aged care and the elderly.
“The stereotypes of people living in care foster depersonalisation, which directly impacts resident well-being.
“Many people have negative experiences with aged care, so undertaking an ongoing, positive experience with residents is important in changing ageist attitudes and developing the future workforce.
“Through the program, we see significant positive change in the students’ attitudes towards all aspects of residential aged care.”
As the needs of the aged care sector are only projected to increase, the vital need to attract and retain high-quality and heartfelt professionals is all too apparent.
Shaping the opportunities, needs and understanding of our vulnerable elderly to future working generations is a crucial step to securing quality care for the decades to come.
As the benefits of the program are still unfurling, the reach of projects such as the Good Neighbour are set to have ever increasing validity and purpose.
In a sector that has arguably been considerably under-resourced, partnerships with learning institutions are all the more needed and gratefully received.
The logistical, personal and professional benefits of this tertiary involvement in aged care highlights the encouraging possibilities to come.
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