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Challenging beliefs around ageing - Restorative Care Pilot Program

When the Australian Government announced the release of Restorative Care Packages in February 2016, Catholic Healthcare's Community Services team commenced a pilot program named Restorative Care, which focuses on restoring quality and function to our clients’ lives.

As reported in the 2015 Intergenerational Report, Australians will live longer and continue to have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. In 2054-55, life expectancy at birth is projected to be 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women, compared with 91.5 and 93.6 years today. Our community services team asked “how are we going to support this growing population in the best possible way?”

The new Government packages and our Community Services Restorative Care Program strives to offer seniors more care options and improve their capacity to stay independent and living at home for as long as they choose. It also supports people in regaining their independence after a health setback, such as an illness or fall, and where possible, prevents hospital admission.

Our Community Services team knew they had the right expertise, experience and initiative to develop a program that met these criteria. Using a lean start-up approach, they created a Restorative Care Pilot Program, which commenced development in October 2015 and launched in November 2015 on the NSW Central Coast. The pilot’s key aims were to assess our clients’ capabilities and work with them to restore their quality of life, while also helping them achieve personal goals.

By applying lean start-up principles, the program was up and running within two weeks. The focus of the pilot was to develop an environment that created small increments of improvement that happened quickly so as to foster hope and a sense of achievement in participants.

When it comes to taking the leap into a new, customised service, lean start-up principles are an invaluable asset that shortens the normally-lengthy development cycle of a new initiative and allow for hypothesis-driven experimentation. The model uses a small target audience to sample and validate learnings, while customer feedback was integral to the process, and ensured the team did not invest time designing a program that did not create significant health improvements for participants. Making use of this feedback, we were able to further tailor the product to specific needs. The team used the ‘build, measure and learn’ technique to quickly develop a minimal viable product for this program in order to test its effectiveness in the market and learn from it.

“The Restorative Care Pilot demonstrated that goal setting increased goal attainment, and also reported improved function in 90% of participants.” said Health and Wellness Manager, Daniel Davies.

He confirmed the results of the Pilot are currently being analysed by the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and will be available in early March 2016.

After developing a series of re-enablement hypotheses, tested over an eight-week period using 10 complex care clients as participants, Mr Davies, expected difficult challenges and even the possibility of failure in some cases. However, the team was extremely pleased with the results achieved by applying a combination of goal setting and objective measurement.

However, the program also identified in its participants, their loved ones and carers, a negative attitude towards ageing and the endemic belief that associates ageing with inevitable decline. This much needed paradigm shift, fundamental to enablement and restorative approaches, is no different from the paradigm shift that needs to occur more broadly across Australian society. Herein lies the wonder of the Restorative Care Program, it challenges these deeply ingrained attitudes and beliefs and provides evidence-based outcomes that demonstrate that an improved quality of life, regardless of the situation is possible.

Catholic Healthcare believes a Restorative Care approach is the solution to improving health and wellbeing in our ageing population. Supporting the older generation to improve their health, wellbeing, independence and social engagement is a goal Catholic Community Services is striving towards… and it’s their aim to achieve this goal with excellence!

“Whilst this was a small sample size, it was designed as a proof of concept for evidenced-based program development,” said Project Lead, Dr Cathie Buckley. “The lessons learned from our participants were immense and will benefit all Catholic Community Services clients.”

Keen to learn more about this program? Contact Catholic Healthcare's Community Services on 1800 225 474.