Aged Care: Neglect!

A couple of weeks back, I attended the community forum in Newcastle, for Australia’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. I was close to tears as I listened to people’s harrowing stories of their experiences in relation to the aged care sector. So, this month, I can’t go past this particular publication. Sure, it’s not a journal article, but it’s of equal importance, in my humble opinion, particularly to Australians.

The Foreword of the Commission’s Interim Report (2019), titled: Neglect, opens with: “It’s not easy growing old. We avoid thinking and talking about it….The Australian community generally accepts that older people have earned the chance to enjoy their later years…Yet the language of public discourse is not respectful towards older people. Rather, it is about burden, encumbrance, obligation and whether taxpayers can afford to pay for the dependence of older people.” As many of the forum’s speakers stated, once a person is being cared for by the aged care sector, it’s often “out of sight, and out of mind”.

I attended because I’m concerned about my own ageing; because I’ve been troubled about the care given to elderly members of my family; and because of the stories I’ve heard and investigated in the pre-prescribed care many therapists are trained to provide to residents of Aged Care facilities. Understandably, commission may raise more questions than it answers, but, at this celebratory time of the year for many, I leave you with the question the attending Commissioner, Ms Lynelle Briggs AO, asked asked us, in her closing comments: “Where’s the joy?”

Out of interest, I’ve just searched publications in the last 2 years, for evidence relating to older people and joy. Although findings are limited, one study sheds some light on this. Rinnan et al (2019) set out to find “new approaches to increase positive health and well-being” in residents aged care facilities in Norway. The researchers found “joy of living” was associated with “positive relations, a sense of belonging, sources of meaning, moments of feeling well, and acceptance”. I look forward to a day when quality aged care is the norm, and not the exception. I look forward to a day when the concept of Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds is just one of many examples of quality aged care; again, the norm and not the exception.

It’s not easy growing old. As Commissioner Briggs asked us to do, I ask you to read the Interim Report, tell people about the report, and talk with family and friends about our aged care. Let’s make sure older Australians are not “out of sight, and out of mind”.

Reference: Rinnan E, André B, Drageset J, Garåsen H, Arild Espnes G, Haugan G (2018) Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 32(4), 1468-1476, https://doi.org/10.1111/scs.12598

Know’vember!

In celebration of five years of successes, CPDLife® is celebrating with its “Know’vember” promotion. During all of November 2019, all Self Directed courses offered through CPDLife® website are at half price! This means that our “flag-ship”, 8 hour courses are only $110! But this promotion only applies during this months, so get in quick as there’s only a couple more weeks to go.

Proprioception after Stroke

November 2019: Semrau et al (In Press) Differential loss of position sense and kinesthesia in sub-acute stroke. Cortex, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2019.09.013 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945219303351

Humble opinion: Its relatively rare to see evidence published relating to position sense and kinesthesia, so this is an article worth reviewing, especially, because these investigators found that more than half of all those recovering from stroke had deficits in both! This places these at far higher clinical significance, than perhaps has been previously appreciated. All 285 participants in this study had recent, first-ever strokes. The methods, measures, tasks and data analyses all point towards a study that has high scientific integrity. Therefore, these findings can be trusted, giving us true, valid and reliable findings. Interestingly, the study recruited many more participants who were male, but the average age of 61 is reflective of a relatively “normal” stroke cohort.

As I inferred before, to find that more than half of people diagnosed with a recent, first-ever stroke experience deficits in position sense and kinesthesia, means that we should certainly be screening for this in all acute stroke patients, because, this is not an easily-observable deficit. What the investigators also found was that most patients with both deficits were diagnosed with right hemispheric lesions in both cortical and sub-cortical regions; so, at the very least, this sub-cohort of patient should be screened. It’s also worth keeping in mind that 22% of participants experienced only one of these deficits; and this was more likely to occur in those with smaller lesions. Unsurprisingly, the findings indicate the two deficits share common neural pathways. The other significant finding is that yes, these deficits do adversely impact a person’s ability to undertake everyday tasks. I suggest this is a very important article to read, but as always, this is just my humble opinion.

To read the abstract, select Journal Club 2019 and Proprioception after Stroke.

Stroke Recovery & Rehab

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October 2019: Bernhardt, Borshmann, Kwakkel et al (2019) Setting the scene for the second stroke recovery and rehabilitation roundtable. International Journal of Stroke, 4(5), 450-456, DOI ttps://doi.org/10.1177/1747493019851287

It’s hugely, hugely encouraging to hear about the work of international collaboratives like this one. I’ve been involved in one of the sub-groups and again, this is also hugely encouraging and energising. After all, why not approach stroke recovery from an international perspective; taking what is done best in one country and applying it in another, and learning lessons from the less effective practices and models of care? When it comes to improving outcomes for those directly affected by stroke, an international “team” approach should be underpinning the clinical practices of every local team. To stay up-to-date on what is happening at an international level, this is the team to follow.

As the authors rightly state, this team includes those who are working with people recovering from stroke right through to researchers like Andrew Clarkson, who are investigating animal models of stroke. This broader perspective and collective provides a richer source of what is, and is not, the very best practice that we can deliver to those directly affected. It also provides the broadest platform on which future research and change can occur. If you have a professional and/or personal interest in stroke recovery and rehabilitation, I commend the work and output of this group to you. If we liken stroke recovery to a ship sailing international waters, this group acts as the rudder mechanisms directing and plotting its course.

This article is freely available. Although it is not reporting original research, it is nevertheless an important publication for those with an interest in stroke recovery.

Neuroplasticity, Stroke Recovery & Learning

August 2019: Carey et al (2019) Finding the intersection of neuroplasticity, stroke recovery, and learning: Scope and contributions to stroke rehabilitation. Neural Plasticity, Article ID 5232374, https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5232374

My congratulations to Leeanne and her colleagues on this incredible piece of research. The fact that an initial search identified just over 400,000 publications gives you some idea of just how much work was involved in this investigation. The temptation to stop right there must have been very strong indeed. Not only is this research innovative in its research question and methods, it is intriguing in its findings. As the title indicates, the investigators set out to find the intersection between neuroplasticity, stroke recovery and learning, and what they found is portrayed in Figure 3. Interestingly, the findings don’t quite intersect, which may say more about where research is up to, in the evolution of this evidence; because, the connectivity between these three issues is in no doubt at all. That “cognition was the major theme identified”, does not come as any surprise. Other identified themes like “task-based….and activity-based learning” and “experience-dependent learning” provides the therapeutic perspective. This watershed evidence is a “must read” for all those involved in recovery after stroke, I’d suggest. This article is freely available. As always, this is just my “humble opinion”.

PS: To make my blog less complicated, as of this month, I’m only going to post. I’ll leave it to others to comments if they want to.

Exciting News!

Today is the first day of my new CPDLife® website. It’s not only full of beautiful, Australian landscape photography, it now proudly boasts the following:

  • New suite of Self Directed course options, which, for the 8-hour courses, are priced at only AUD$220
  • Completely updated Neuroplasticity course, with a new, Self Directed option
  • Completely updated Educating Online (3hr), Stroke in 30 and Evidence in 30 courses, which are still complimentary!
  • My new, Self Directed, 3-hour Understanding Evidence course, priced at only AUD$88
  • My new Blog, with posts Health Care, Professional Development and Online Learning, which I’ll add to regularly. (I’ll still keep doing Journal Club on this website, I promise!)

If you’d like to receive CPDLife® updates, go to the Courses page, scroll down and submit your name and email address.

PS. I’m still updating my Stroke Recovery course, and, if all goes according to plan, an Educator Led and Self Directed option will be available in October 2019.

Carers’ Unmet Needs

July 2019: Denham et al (2019) “This is our life now. Our new normal”: A qualitative study of the unmet needs of carers of stroke survivors. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216682. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216682

Its always special to reference an article published by authors I have some connection with. This article, which incidentally, is open access, provides unique insight into the care needs of those who care for people recovering from and/or living with stroke. The authors introduce their research reflecting on the fact that stroke is a “family disease”. They’re right, aren’t they? It’s not just the survivor who is directly affected, but those who they share their lives with – hence the “family” description. What’s unique to this study, is its investigation of the unmet needs of carers across diverse settings. Previous research has mainly focussed on the rehabilitation phase of care. Although this study used qualitative methods and the majority of responders were female, it nevertheless provides unique insights into these members of our communities. You’ll find the abstract under Journal Club 2019 and “humble opinion” as a comment to this post.