Cottage-style care better and less costly, new study finds

Cottage-style residential care leads to better outcomes for people with dementia and is cheaper overall, according to a new study released this week.

The Flinders University paper, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), found home-like, clustered models of care deliver better quality of life, lower hospitalisation rates, and lower emergency department presentation rates than traditional aged care facilities.

A resident and a carer at one of HammondCare's residential aged care homes

The findings affirm what many residents and carers already know, including the family of HammondCare resident Robert Hooker.

Robert's story

Robert was living in a traditional-style nursing home with more than 60 residents, where he become withdrawn, depressed and antisocial. An incident led his family to search for a more suitable home. In March he moved into a cottage-style residential care home in Hammondville with 11 other residents.

Since then, Robert has been happier; more mobile, social and talkative; put on weight; and significantly reduced his dose of psychotropic medication.

“We've seen great improvements in dad's health mentally and physically,” Robert's daughter Carly said.

“He's happy, talking and engaging in conversations. He laughs at jokes again. Overall he has a positive disposition now compared to how withdrawn he was.”

Carly attributed much of her dad's improvement to the design of his new care home, which features a centralised kitchen and common area.

“Where he was felt like a hospital. Where he is now feels like a home.”

Specialist dementia carer Sandra Hore said it took Robert a few weeks to adjust to the more social environment, but she soon noticed a positive change in his disposition and quality of life.

“When Robert came in he was rigid and stiff, unable to talk, couldn't walk independently. He couldn't feed himself and he was very underweight,” she said.

Reducing his psychotropic medication helped Robert rediscover his voice, mobility and some independence. He also gained five kilograms and is no longer taking weight-gain medication.

“He's much happier. You can see his personality now,” Sandra said. “He likes music therapy, one-on-one conversation, watching the footy and going outside.”

Cost of home-like care

In addition to improved quality of life, home-like care is estimated to save about $14,000 a year per person, due mainly to reduced hospitalisation rates.

HammondCare chief executive Stephen Judd welcomed the findings.

“This research supports the type of care that HammondCare has been delivering for many years - small home like environments, with domestic kitchens and meals being prepared and cooked in the home, where there is easy access to the outdoors,” Dr Judd said.

“It shows that these sort of environments for older people deliver a better quality of life as well as less time spent in hospital - something we all want for our loved ones,

“But it is important to say that this is not just about the physical environment, but the social model of care and approach to staffing as well.

“It should be a no brainer for governments, philanthropists and other aged care investors to back those models that reflect the evidence, because at the end of the day, that's what will produce better outcomes for more and more older Australians.”

Media inquiries: For more information or to request an interview, please contact Harrison Vesey hvesey@hammond.com.au on (02) 8280 8408.

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