Research on Dementia and Aged Care

Positioned at the intersection of research and operations within Australia’s largest provider of dementia-specific services, the Dementia Centre provides a working model of ongoing research knowledge translation and implementation.

As an important adjunct to our existing suite of research activities, we have been conducting a range of sponsored pharmaceutical trials of new, potentially disease-modifying medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. These activities not only complement the existing Dementia Centre research platform, but may provide hope for people living with dementia.

peoplechatStrategic partnerships

NHMRC Partnership Centre on dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in older people

HammondCare is one of four service providers partnering with the National Health & Medical Research Centre to form the Partnership Centre on dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in older people - also known as the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDPC).

This is the first of six research Partnership Centres that focuses on key health priorities. Alongside the NHMRC and HammondCare, partners include Alzheimer’s Australia, Helping Hand and Brightwater Care Group.

The Partnership Centre aims to deliver and disseminate research-informed change and important health and health care services improvement by bringing together researchers, policymakers, service providers and health and aged care workers in an applied research program. A key distinctive of the research of the Partnership Centre is its alignment with the actual delivery of care and improved quality of life for people in need.

Chief Investigator is Associate Professor Susan Kurrle, Hornsby Ku-Ring-Gai Hospital, NSW. HammondCare’s involvement in the Partnership Centre is a HammondCare Foundation project supported by The Thomas Foundation. 

docsCurrent projects

Community care for the elderly: needs and service use study (CENSUS)

This project will help us better understand the needs of older people and their caregivers who receive community-based care services, and how well these services meet their needs over time. This project is also investigating whether community services improve quality of life of older people and reduce caregiver burden. This is a collaborative project undertaken with the University of NSW (UNSW) and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (DCRC) - Assessment and Better Care and is supported by DCRCs.

Going to Stay at Home

The Going to Stay at Home project is the development of a seven-day intensive residential carer training course that involves both the primary family carer and the person living with dementia. The aim of the project is to provide a practical, cost-effective, intensive and accessible residential family carer training course to enable family carers and people living with dementia to continue living in the community. This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and is being undertaken in collaboration with UNSW.

The program was run at HammondCare Miranda in 2013 and also ran in Tamworth in March 2014.

Beyond respite: designing effective wellness programs for caregivers

By investigating the wellbeing of caregivers of people with dementia across a number of wellness domains, this project aims to gain insight into the day-to-day wellness needs of caregivers and identify the constraints that limit caregivers achieving a sense of good wellbeing. This project is funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and is being undertaken in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Alzheimer's Australia.

Improving palliative care for people with advanced dementia living in residential care

The aim of this project is to improve the delivery and quality of palliative care for residents with advanced dementia living in residential aged care by developing a facilitated case conferencing resource. This resource will be used to facilitate case conferencing between aged care staff, health professionals (including GPs) and residents’ primary decision-makers to discuss the current stage of illness and agree on a management plan founded by evidence-based best practice. The impact of the intervention on residents’ symptoms and quality of life in the last days of life, as well as family satisfaction with care staff attitudes and care delivery, will also be evaluated. This project is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and is being undertaken in collaboration with investigators from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of Queensland (UQ), QUT, University of Technology (UN) and the University of Notre Dame (UND).

Integrated care framework for advanced dementia: (ICF-D)

This project aims to develop a nationally applicable and accessible gold-standard framework to guide point-of-care palliative dementia care, raise community and aged care provider awareness of dementia as a terminal illness, and increase confidence to have conversations about end of life care decisions and preferences. This project is funded by Alzheimer’s Australia and is being undertaken by HammondCare in collaboration with Flinders University.

Evaluating the acceptance and effectiveness of a bidet in a residential respite setting

Dementia is a leading cause of disease burden in Australia. Functional deficits in daily living activities such as personal hygiene are predictable outcomes of the progression of the disease. Dementia is commonly accompanied by behavioural changes, including agitation and aggression, frequently associated with the performance of daily activities, including toileting, and often directed towards the carer. This project will use a semi-structured, in-depth interview with care recipients, their family carers and aged care staff to determine: the level of acceptance of the bidet by the user, the perceived efficacy of the bidet to cleanse and dry the user, the ways in which the bidet is used, and to develop an understanding of the issues and benefits of bidet use. This project is funded by DCRCs.

Investigating older people, informal carer and aged care staff's views and preferences for consumer-directed care

This national project will develop and apply a health economic model to the development, implementation and evaluation of a consumer-directed care (CDC) approach to community care service delivery in Australia. This project will generate improvements to the operation and cost efficiency of CDC and, as a consequence, impact positively on the quality of CDC service delivery. This project is being led by Flinders, partnered by HammondCare, ACH Group Aged Care and Housing Group, Catholic Community Services, Helping Hand Aged Care, Resthaven, UQ, USYD and Monash University. This project is financially supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant.

Dementia Dog Programme evaluation

Dementia Dog is a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good, combining professional expertise to pilot and develop new services for people living with dementia. This evaluation program focuses on the impact of Dementia Assistant Dogs in the lives of people with dementia and covers a range of topics including economic impact. This program is funded by charitable donations and Dementia Assistance Dogs.

Age UK ‘My Life, My Way’ Programme evaluation

'My Life, My Way' is a project providing support to older people with dementia and their carers in the Belfast and Northern Trust areas. The aim of this project is to promote the personal autonomy and decision making of hard to reach, older people with dementia who are isolated and at high risk of disempowerment. My Life My Way is a partnership project with the Big Lottery Fund and the Belfast and Northern Health and Social Care Trusts. This six-month realist evaluation, which concluded in March 2019, looks at the impact of the program from the perspective of people with dementia, carers, referrers and volunteers

Going on the Go - researching the needs of people finding and using toilets on journeys

Going to the toilet is a universal human need and a core consideration when travelling and accessing the community. Barriers to accessing toilets while travelling can be wide ranging and may vary across different conditions, making it difficult for the transport industry to meet these varied and often conflicting needs. The aim of this project is to explore and define the needs of disabled people with a range of impairments to use toilet facilities while travelling.

ECRED, Upstream, PAMIS, Scottish Dementia Alumni, The Dementia Centre and HammondCare in the UK are working with a range of disabled co-researchers, gathering their own real-time everyday experiences of finding and using toilets. The research for this project is funded by the National Lottery funded DRILL Program (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) and will report later in 2019.

Completed Research

clipboardReview of current seating practices in supporting people living with dementia in residential aged care - a pilot study

This project involved a systematic review of literature relating to seating for people living with advanced dementia, a review of available seating products, the development of a typology of seating and a review of current clinical practices used in residential aged care facilities. Current practice has no empirically-based guidelines but, anecdotally, clinical experience suggests that seating is suboptimal and may lead to poor outcomes. This project laid foundations for future practical intervention studies to improve care outcomes for residents and staff. This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and a report on this project will soon be released. This project inspired the production of the 10 tips about seating and postural care for older people booklet.

The booklet is available to download for free here. This project was funded by DCRCs and was undertaken in collaboration with UNSW, Brightwater Care Group and the Independent Living Centre, NSW.

Empowering the carer through assistive technology

This project aimed to develop and implement a strategy to increase the acceptance and use of assistive technology (AT) to decrease carer burden and support carers in helping older Australians to remain safely in their own homes for as long as possible. There are already a multitude of ATs that exist, however many of the technologies are driven by technological advancement rather than by the needs of the user or the carer. This project involved conducting a detailed assessment of the carer's need that might be addressed by AT and then determine which particular AT provided the best solution to meet this need. This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and was undertaken in collaboration with USYD.

Review of the literature on the effectiveness of assistive technology in the care of people with dementia

This project reviewed existing literature to identify assistive technologies that can be applied in everyday practice to improve mobility, communication, cognition, manipulation and orientation. This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and published in the PDRC Report. 

Doll therapy in dementia-specific residential care

This HammondCare project explored the use of a baby doll to provide enhanced life engagement to residents with dementia. Peer-reviewed journal articles support the use of dolls in triggering happy memories and/or soothing patterns of behaviour. Measurements of behaviour and emotion were taken before, during and after the therapy sessions for analysis. When data collection was completed and analysed, results were used for the purpose of creating an individualised doll therapy plan for each resident, to be implemented in their life engagement program.

Environmental design for people with dementia: charting the gap between theory and practice in the design of new residential facilities

The objectives of this project were to identify the specific gaps between theory and practice of environmental design for residential care facilities (e.g. the failure to avoid over-stimulation or to provide wayfinding cues), to discover obstacles to best practice (lack of knowledge, cost, other priorities etc), to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles to ensure best practice and to disseminate these strategies for discussion. The project was funded by the DCRC and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Wollongong.

Pre- and post-occupancy evaluation of Southwood cottages

On completion of Southwood, 55 high-care residents were relocated from Sinclair Home - a 'traditional' nursing home environment - to Southwood, which adopted a small-scale home-based model of care. This study monitored the effects of relocation and the new model of care on resident engagement, distress and interaction with staff. Staff work patterns and family satisfaction were also measured. The environments were audited with three separate tools.

The study showed that resident engagement increased following the transition and further increased in the months following staff training. Staff also showed an increase in interactive tasks with residents after the move and again after training. Low rates of distress were recorded in both environments. Southwood cottages scored higher on all domains of the three audit tools, offering a more private, home-like residence. Restraints were not used in Southwood, resulting in a higher level of falls, which decreased back to pre-transition levels after a few months. Families of residents were more satisfied with the environment, staff and food. This study was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Sydney.

A review of the empirical literature on the design of physical environments for people with dementia

This project aimed to identify the principles that will assist designers, architects and planners to provide environments that reduce disability and enhance quality of life of people with dementia. This project also sought to provide a foundation for the discussion of a coherent strategy for encouraging the application of the design principles and the provision of appropriate assistive technologies. The results of the project indicate a reasonable level of certainty that designers and architects may be confident about using unobtrusive safety measures, varying the ambience, size and shape of spaces; providing single rooms; maximising visual access to important features; and providing for stimulus control with the periodic availability of high levels of illumination. The project was undertaken in collaboration with DCRC UNSW.

Keeping curtains on track

In this HammondCare project, Residents of HammondCare’s special care unit for people with severe and persistent challenging behaviours were continuously pulling down curtains, which resulted in damage to walls and fixtures and the ripping out of curtain tracks. This project sought to identify alternatives to the strong curtain tracking and fixtures used at the cottage, which were unable to cope with such treatment by the residents, to ensure that residents could continue to enjoy the many benefits of curtains in the home. This project determined that the behaviour of the residents in pulling the curtains down was not triggered by any other stimuli aside from the presence of the curtains. HammondCare partnered with an interior designer and curtain maker to identify alternatives that would reduce the impact of this behaviour on the environment, facility, staff and residents.

Improving communication about end of life issues for people with dementia

This project aimed to significantly improve the quality of care provided to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia by developing and implementing systems, skills and resources for carers and health professionals that will facilitate timely communication on end-of-life issues with those that are diagnosed and their families. This study was led by researchers at QUT and was conducted in collaboration with Spiritus, The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus and Alzheimer's Australia.