“Understand who this person was, who they are, their challenges, their triumphs”: What leads to brilliant aged care?

Even though many aged care services don’t provide the care that older people and carers need and want, some do it much better than others. Why?

That’s the question colleagues from WSU, UNSW, SESLHD, SWSLHD, RCSI and I explored in an open access article that explores these questions, led by Associate Professor Ann Dadich.

Rather than focusing on the substantial and systemic problems facing aged care, this study examined brilliant aged care — practices that exceeded expectation.

There are many insights into what can lead to brilliant aged care, which can be broadly categorised into:

  • deep understanding of the older person
  • more than a job
  • innovative practices
  • permission to reprioritise.

Some of the best insights came from the artefacts that people were asked to bring to the interview, which were items (e.g. photos, items, artworks or other objects) that reflected brilliant aged care for them. These artefacts opened up new lines of discussion and new ideas, for example:

“people in the late stages of dementia are like an oyster, one of the ugliest, kind of gnarled shells you could possibly think of. There are so many beautiful shells in the world. The oyster isn’t one of them and yet when you open it up, it has this extraordinary little pearl inside it and that’s what we need to find in every older person. Every older person, no matter … what their state of health or wellbeing, still has that pearl that is that beautiful human being inside them and it’s our job, not their job, it’s our job to open that up and find that pearl.” (Grace)

There’s a lot more in the open access article – take a look.

Dadich, A., Kearns, R., Harris-Roxas, B., Ni Chroinin, D., Boydell, K., Ní Shé, É., Lim, D., Gonski, P., & Kohler, F. (2023). What constitutes brilliant aged care? A qualitative study of practices that exceed expectation. Journal of Clinical Nursingonline firsthttps://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.16789