New institute values work of dementia carers

Enhancing online support for dementia carers can help unlock better ways of using care resources – which is the key to important research being done by Professor Lily Xiao, from the Caring Futures Institute at Flinders University.

Her work on improving dementia care through online support modes strikes at the heart of difficulties surrounding improved care of dementia patients – and ensuring that the carers devoted to such intensive work are properly cared for as well.

It is one of several key projects of the Caring Futures Institute, launched by Flinders University on 13 August 2019.

Based at Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Caring Futures Institute is the first research hub in Australia fully dedicated to the study of self-care and caring solutions to transform how we care for ourselves and others.

“Caring is fundamental to any society but we need to do better, particularly in the context of our ageing populations, chronic illness, rising health care costs and the opportunities presented from advancing technology,” says Professor Alison Kitson, Vice-President of Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences and inaugural leader of the Caring Futures Institute.

“The Caring Futures Institute is focused on better care across the lifespan – developing solutions with partners and end-users to deliver societal and economic benefits,” Professor Kitson says.

A key example of this is providing care for someone with dementia. “It’s very challenging, because they often need to be provided with 24/7 care,” says Dr Xiao.

“We need to promote consumer directed self-care, which means that services must be decided by the consumers, rather than the service providers.”

An important part of the evolving new platform is the icare support group, where people can communicate with each other, learn and share from others practical experiences and be part of a community where their challenges are understood.

“We’re helping the carers to understand how to care for themselves as well,” says Professor Xiao. “We know many of these carers are elderly themselves, often husband and wives. They also need support and care.”

Professor Xiao and her team is now applying for funding to complete an English version of isupport, which will then be translate into different languages that can reach across Australia’s multi-cultural communities, so that the platform is able to provided culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and support for all communities.

Other initial projects at the Caring Futures Institute include developing evidence-backed digital apps to facilitate nutritional home cooking, digital innovations to empower heart patients of all cultures and languages in self-care, and a promising new early detection test on autism for children.

Professor Kitson says this is one example of many society-changing projects to be advanced through the Caring Futures Institute. “A future with answers to our greatest health challenges, where the highest standard of care is available to all who need it, is not out of reach,” she says.

The importance of quality of life to aged care consumers and their families has been highlighted in the ongoing Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety this year.

These assessments are important to support Consumer Directed Care and the successful implementation of the new Aged Care Quality Standards.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, spending on aged care programs and services is expected to rise to $80 billion by 2054-2055. Economic evaluation helps decision-makers fund services and supports that maximise quality of life for older people.

About the new Caring Futures Institute

Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute is Australia’s first ever fully dedicated research centre for the study of self-care and caring solutions leading to better lives, better communities and better health systems. The Caring Futures Institute is based on four themes:

  • Better systems – in health, ageing, social care systems and services
  • Better lives – focused on self-care, health and wellbeing
  • Better care – including caring, supportive, restorative and palliative interventions
  • Better communities – generating social inclusion through co-design and collaboration


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