Holistic care in old age

Care homes are revolutionising the way they care for their elderly patients and are seeking the help of primary care professionals

08 Dec 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Aged care homes that take a holistic approach to the healthcare of their patients – addressing their social isolation as well as physical conditions like diabetes or age-related macular degeneration – are reaping the rewards, attendees at the King’s Fund Enhanced health in care homes event (6 December) were told.

One blind resident in a Wakefield district care home blossoms when pet therapy dogs, Tilly and Archie, visit, St George’s community centre manager, Lesley Wagstaff said.

Ms Wagstaff explained that: “Her daughter said that she was a changed person, just sitting and holding a dog.”

The community centre has worked closely with the care homes under the Wakefield Provider Alliance, which was selected by the NHS to receive vanguard funding to explore new ways of caring for old-age patients.

The project has linked the care homes in the pilot scheme with local charities in the area, such as Action for Blind People and the Wakefield Talking Newspaper, Wakefield Provider Alliance director, Janice James, told OT.

The volunteers and charities are paired with residents, and provide anything from a manicure to a themed afternoon tea.

Ms James highlighted that the activities have a noticeable effect on patients, adding: “It creates a whole different buzz and energy.”

She emphasised that the approach has resulted in positive impacts on physical health too, with A&E attendances down and patient confidence up.

The King’s Fund event also highlighted vanguard schemes that are promoting relationships between the primary care sector and aged care homes, including a scheme in Newcastle and Gateshead, and another in Sunderland.

Projects in this area have paired care homes with multi-disciplinary teams of primary care specialists, including doctors and specialised nurses, to hold weekly in-person clinics as well as virtual clinics. Primary care providers, such as specialist psychiatrists, podiatrists and optometrists, either attend the virtual clinics or receive referrals for patients from the team.

Sunderland clinical commissioning group senior commissioning manager, Penny Davison, explained that: “People need to be competent in geriatric assessment…Training was key.”

To find out more, visit the King's Fund website.

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