Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW

‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Soul – the secret to a long and healthy life in Australia’

In a previous post, we talked about what is meant by ‘a good life?’ We explored how important it is for older people to look after their health and wellbeing by watching what they eat and drink, have plenty of rest and exercise. We explored the importance of being involved, being active, making choices that make them happy and feel connected to their families and those around them but at the same time, striving for a level of independence and having choices. These choices provide a sense of control, wellness and wellbeing.

Australias’ Aged Care System of Independence and Wellness 

In Australia, the aged care system is there to support this sense or philosophy of ’Independence and Wellness’. Activities are funded to keep older people active, engaged and at a level that they feel independent and safe. For some it could mean finding benefit from social activities which build a persons social connectedness and social life, keeping their mind and body active. For others, aged care services can support them to regain what they thought they had lost, such as physical strength that can be regained through therapies which enable them to do something they used to do before, but find challenging now. We call this reablement. In some circumstances, due to certain events in a persons’ life, they may need the support of an allied health professional, such as a physiotherapist, to help them regain their independence after an accident, or surgery or an event which affected their ability to look after themselves. In this case restorative care would be provided. These are not new concepts. In the Australian aged care system, as well as in the United Kingdom and New Zealand they have been used extensively for some time.

The Australian aged care system has a strong focus on wellness, reablement and restorative care when working with older people and their carers during different stages of their care including assessment, planning and while delivering services.

Build on what the person CAN do 

The aim is to build on what the older person CAN do and to build their strength and ability to remain independent, as much as possible. We achieve this by focusing on what is important to the person and what they would like to be able to do independently again. We support them to set their own goals and their own plans on how to meet these goals.

Aged care services become partners in care, rather than the drivers and decision-makers. For most older people their goal is to stay happy, safe and independent, whether in their own home, or in residential care .
For some people, this way of thinking about wellness and regaining independence is new. In earlier times, thinking about “getting old” was all about slowing down, being “looked after” by someone else and needing people to “do things for” them. What we now know is that this way of thinking actually causes a loss of independence which affects physical and mental health and wellbeing as we get older.

So we find ourselves in the position of having to shift the old way of thinking and replace “doing for”, with “doing with”. It’s about older people understanding wellbeing in today’s world and being supported to stay in control of their own lives by being active in the decision making processes. Let us take a closer look at the definition of wellness, reablement and restorative care.

What is wellness?

‘Wellness’ is about being well; It is about the older person being as independent as possible by staying fit and healthy, taking care of themselves, spending times doing the things they want to do and living safely in their own home.

It encourages actions that promote a level of independence when completing daily living activities and tasks at home, as well as reducing risks which may result in the person needing to leave home and prematurely entering into some kind of long term care.

What is reablement?

‘Reablement’ is about treating the older person as a ‘well person, not a sick patient. It is helping them do things for themselves, rather than doing things for them and helping them to improve their health and wellbeing and get back to a point which allows them to live well’.

Let us use the task of vacuuming as an example. Vacuuming the floor is probably not the most exciting thing to do, but it keeps the body moving. Instead of stopping from vacuuming all together, we would consider changing the way the older person vacuums. Perhaps vacuuming one room at a time or buying a lighter vacuum cleaner so that it isn’t so heavy. It is about keeping the older person active, independent and in control.

Reablement is a very personalised approach. The support is tailored towards the individual achieving specific goals and meeting their own needs. This approach is about the older person ‘calling the shots ‘and having the mindset, knowledge and awareness to make informed decisions.

What is restorative care?

Restorative Care involves support provided and led by allied health workers that allows an older person to make an improvement after a setback or injury, or in order to, where possible, avoid future injury. The restorative approach provides assistance which is led by (in most cases) health care professionals.

The therapy is based on a clinical assessment of the older persons’ condition, for example, after an accident like a fall, an injury, or a stroke. It is to help the older person get back to doing the things they used to do or would like to do, such as helping around the home, or continuing to participate in their community.

Unlike the other approaches, restorative care can involve primary health care providers of hearing, vision and dental care, or a specialist from mental health or disability services. It can require a multidisciplinary approach, in other words, various health and medical supports or interventions simultaneously. This kind of care is often time-limited and works towards meeting a person’s specific goal or outcome.

In some cases this may involve assisting the older person to adapt to some ongoing functional loss, or to regain confidence and capacity to resume their activities as best as they can

 Priority Messages and Tips

Embrace wellness and restorative approaches to care in everyday life activities.

Actively participate in activities which promote wellness and restorative approaches

Move it or lose it. The more you use your body the more flexible and healthier your will be as you age.

Important to ask yourself “what does ageing well mean to me?” and “what support to I need to be able to live the life I want to live?”

Source: Speak My Language Bilingual Facilitators Guide Copyright SpeakMyLanguage 2017