April 2017

Research on thriving in residential aged care homes

Dr David Edvardsson, Professor of Nursing at La Trobe University, is leading an international research group, the U-Age Consortium. Here he outlines a research program exploring ‘thriving’ and ‘person-centred’ activities in residential aged care homes across three international study sites including Winchelsea, Victoria. 

National and international studies repeatedly show that frail older people ageing in institutions would benefit from more health-promoting approaches to care with seamless and invisible boundaries between the person’s previous life experiences and current opportunities. 

As leader of an international research group, the U-Age Consortium, I’m exploring new and cost-effective ways to improve the possibility for older people in residential aged care facilities to participate in society, to enjoy a decent quality of life, and to be able to experience health, pleasurable activities and meaningful social participation. 

As part of this research program, I’m conducting a few studies focussing on how to promote thriving in residential aged care facilities, with one of three international study sites being Hesse Rural Health in Winchelsea, Victoria. This particular study aims to evaluate effects and meanings of person-centred and thriving-promoting interventions. 

Residential aged care facilities in Australia, Norway and Sweden have been allocated to a person-centred and thriving-promoting intervention group, and three other facilities have been allocated to an inert control group. 

Staff at intervention sites are participating in a 12-month interactive educational program. How to facilitate thriving for aged care residents is explored through three dimensions hypothesised to increase resident thriving: 

  • Doing a little extra for residents in everyday care 
  • Developing a caring physical and psychosocial environment, and 
  • Assessing and meeting residents’ highly prioritised psychosocial needs. 

Pre and post study surveys are administered requiring residents to rate their levels of thriving, while relatives rate their satisfaction with care and staff rate their experiences of job satisfaction, stress and the caring environment. 

The study will contribute to an international body of evidence to inform further research, policy and practice development on how to facilitate thriving and not just surviving of older people in nursing homes.

The study is being conducted in conjunction with researchers from Umea University, Sweden and Oslo University, Norway.

Findings to date from the research program into thriving shows that resident thriving is associated with engagement in everyday activities in the facility, spending time outdoors, dressing nicely and spending time with someone that the resident likes. Furthermore, lower ADL-capacity, cognitive impairment and behaviours of concern are predictors of lower resident thriving. It is hoped that this intervention study can provide a practice model for implementing thriving-promoting care across national and international sites.

For more information on the research program into thriving, you can contact Dr Edvardsson at La Trobe University at D.Edvardsson@latrobe.edu.au