Role of research in aged care

Research into older Australians and into aged care provision is important. There are a number of well-established funding agencies. The Australian Research Council (ARC) supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied research and research training through national competition across all disciplines. Clinical and other medical research is primarily supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition, the ARC brokers partnerships between researchers and industry, government, community organisations and the international community. The Medical Research Futures Fund plans to transform health and medical research and has a strategic program involving research missions and research initiatives.

There is growing recognition by the aged care sector, clinicians, researchers and policy makers of the need to build and translate palliative care evidence relating to older Australians. The Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) is the national peak body linking professionals working across the multidisciplinary fields of ageing. In June 2016, AAG made a submission on the Medical Research Future Fund advocating for a National Ageing Well Research Strategy. This included the importance of research around end of life.

Identifying and investigating issues specific to the end of life experience of aged care clients and residents is a critical part of building an ageing research agenda. As part of its evidence appraisal and synthesis processes, palliAGED captures research gaps.

Other activities such as accreditation, evaluation and audit processes can contribute to the quality of aged care.

Using research findings

There are centres and institutes around Australia with a focus on ageing research. Research can take place in a range of settings wherever older people are living. Studies can involve a range of designs and methodologies including but not limited to:

  • clinical trials of medication and drug safety
  • evaluating interventions for dementia care
  • operational issues
  • partnerships with families
  • models of care, and
  • participatory action research.

Research alone however, does not necessarily lead to improved care. Effective dissemination strategies are required to ensure older people benefit from research findings. Translation of research into everyday practice is complex and is itself a field of research often referred to as ‘knowledge translation’. A literature review carried out by Masso and McArthy [1] in preparation for the Encouraging Better Practice in Aged Care (EBPRAC) program identified the following factors as being important for consideration for the implementation of evidence-based practice:

  • a receptive context for change
  • having a model of change to guide implementation
  • adequate resources
  • staff with the necessary skills
  • stakeholder engagement, participation and commitment
  • the nature of the change in practice
  • systems in place to support the use of evidence, and
  • demonstrable benefits of the change.

Page created 20 June 2019