Aged Care

Evidence-based care in aged care falling short

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While most aged care residents receive best-practice continence care, they do not reliably get optimal treatment for six other common health conditions, new Australian research indicates.

Published in BMC Medicine, the first major study evaluating adherence to clinical guidelines across multiple aged care conditions found residents only received appropriate care 53.2% of the time on average.

Led by patient safety expert Professor Peter Hibbert of Macquarie University, the research assessed care for 294 residents across 27,585 encounters in 25 facilities. Trained nurses measured compliance with evidence-based indicators for 16 conditions.

The poorest performance was managing depression, with only 1% of affected residents adequately monitored for antidepressant side effects monthly. Care for infections, sleep issues, skin integrity, end-of-life treatment and medication management also fell short of guidelines.

Quoted in the paper, Professor Hibbert said workforce shortages in nursing and allied health likely contribute to lapses, though this was not a judgement of individual providers.

The research collected data from around 2021 Royal Commission into Aged Care, which revealed care quality issues and recommended minimum nurse staffing levels. However, Professor Hibbert said mounting workforce pressures have further strained the system.

“This is a commentary on the overall aged care sector which is struggling to provide residents the right care at the right time,” he stated.

With Australia’s 80+ population set to quadruple by 2050, demands on aged care will climb sharply. Professor Hibbert argued properly monitoring sector performance and targeting specific gaps in evidence-based care is essential to the safety and quality of life for residents.

The inconsistent application of optimal clinical treatment remains a systemic concern. As Professor Hibbert said: “Being treated according to evidence-based care is a fundamental human right and essential for ensuring people in aged care are safe and experience the best possible quality of life.”

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