Top quality of life dimensions in aged care

Research from the Caring Futures Institute has found that quality of life for older people receiving aged care services goes beyond health-related indicators.

Older people identify independence, social connections, emotional well-being, mobility, and activities as the quality of life characteristics of most importance to them.

The research is the first of a three-year Australian Research Council Linkage project to develop a quality of life measure that aged care providers can use for quality assessments with their clients.

The Quality of Life Aged Care Consumers Measure (QOL-ACC) will provide organisations with evidence that their services are meeting new quality aged care standards.

Stage one of the project involved qualitative interviews with more than 80 older people living in residential aged care or receiving aged care services in the community.

The participants were asked what aspects were most important to them in terms of having a good quality of life.

From the survey findings, researchers identified the five quality of life ‘dimensions’ –independence, social connections, emotional well-being, mobility, and activities.

The report is titled ‘Developing dimensions for a new preference-based quality of life instrument for older people receiving aged care services in the community’.

The QOL-ACC project is led by Caring Futures Institute research lead and health economics expert Professor Julie Ratcliffe, alongside Dr Claire Hutchinson, Jenny Cleland, Associate Professor Ruth Walker, Dr Rachel Milte and Dr Jyoti Khadka.

Project manager Dr Claire Hutchinson says the team is now in stage two of the project, having developed the questions that relate to the quality of life dimensions.

The team has also tested these questions via face validity interviews with older people.

“We have also conducted a wider survey of over 300 older Australians to test the psychometric properties of the items.” Dr Hutchinson says.

“When we have completed our analysis, we will have the final items which will form the QOL-ACC measure.”

Dr Hutchinson says the third stage of the project will take place in 2021, involving development of a scoring algorithm for the QOL-ACC.

“Instead of having a simple summative score, the QOL-ACC will be scored based on the preference ratings of older people themselves,” she says.

“This will mean that, as well as being used for quality assessment in aged care, the QOL-ACC can also be used for economic evaluation.”

Quality of life is an essential outcome for aged care services where curative treatments may not be possible or desirable, but there are few instruments that can be used to measure quality of life in aged care

Dr Hutchinson says the most common measures have been developed with general populations and therefore don’t reflect the quality of life aspects of most importance to older people. Nor do they use the language that older people use.

“For example, our research has found that older people consider themselves mobile even if they use a walker or other mobility aid,” she says.

“On a generic measure, older people would score low on mobility because of their use of an aid, but the phrasing of mobility in the QOL-ACC takes into account the use of any mobility aids when making an assessment of mobility.”

For more information on QOL-ACC visit the project website and watch the video below.

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