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Identifying challenges

To understand how a partnership-centred approach helps support the needs and preferences of older people and each of their partners-in-care, it’s important to recognise what issues older people face.

While a partnership-centred approach seeks to address the needs and preferences of older people more holistically than some other current models, it’s also necessary to acknowledge that challenges still exist.

In this step you’ll explore some of the common issues that exist in the provision of aged care in light of current health, social and policy expectations.

Dealing with stereotypes

Older people are not all the same. Each older person has a broad range of experiences that have shaped their life, making the population more diverse than most other age groups.

Stereotyping can be dangerous because inaccurate assumptions can negatively affect health and wellbeing outcomes. Stereotyping can also have an effect on the older person’s impression of aged care, as well as how health professionals view working with older people.

All partners-in-care, including external service providers and the wider community, can be influenced by negative stereotypes and myths about ageing and aged care. Left unchallenged, these can adversely impact on the provision of quality health and care outcomes.

Adjusting to new roles and lifestyles

Moving into an aged-care facility can be a difficult time for all partners involved.

For the older person, moving into a new environment usually means a considerable change in lifestyle, which is why ensuring they feel warmly welcomed and oriented to their new environment is critical for a successful transition.

Likewise, family members may also experience a transition in roles. For example, they may move from being the primary caregiver to being a visitor. As a result, they may feel that their level of closeness and influence with the older person changes. The settling-in period for both the older person and those close to them can bring a sense of relief or, alternatively, anxiety or guilt. This makes the need to build effective relationships with staff members vitally important.

Staff can also find this time challenging. Handing over care from one provider, care group or setting to another needs to be done safely and effectively. There is often a lot of information that needs to be transferred to enable the seamless continuation of care. This can be a very busy time for staff as they not only need to address the immediate health and care needs of the older person, but also need to help make the older person and their family feel welcome and comfortable.

Addressing diversity

Nurturing respectful partnerships with others requires cultural awareness, sensitivity and understanding.

When we talk about diversity we’re generally referring to country of origin or identity, cultural values and behaviours, language and communication, religious and/or spiritual beliefs, and sexual or gender identity.

These factors play an increasingly significant role in aged care as migration and globalisation have resulted in the growing cultural diversity of many populations. For some people, this can be a confronting experience if there are significant differences in beliefs, values and life experiences between different partners-in-care, especially when individuals from diverse backgrounds may be meeting for the first time in a healthcare or aged-care setting.

Sometimes these differences can lead to communication difficulties and misunderstandings between older people and their families and healthcare staff. Such misunderstandings, based on incorrect or inaccurate assumptions, can lead to healthcare disparities, conflict or communication failure, which could potentially lead to an adverse event or serious harm.

Respecting choice and independence

From a conceptual point of view, each of us is already on a partnership-based journey.

For example, even if we believe ourselves to be truly independent and able to make our choices based on our own needs and preferences, the fact is we all belong to a family, team, network, organisation, culture or community that has an influence on our decision-making.

In this respect, partnership-centred care is about balancing the needs and preferences of older people with those of their wider family, social, community and healthcare networks.

Developing mutually beneficial relationships

A network of new relationships begins to form as soon as an older person enters a healthcare situation.

These networks can begin with simple communications such as asking questions to gather facts about the older person’s life, preferences and health status. As treatment and care pathways are discussed and decisions are made, a more relationship-based focus starts to build.

During this process and as more disciplines become involved in an older person’s care, effective interdisciplinary teamwork can become challenging, especially if collaborative approaches are not supported. For this reason, organisational systems that encourage collaborative engagement are best placed to support the development of more mutually beneficial relationships between partners-in-care.

Your task

Now that you’ve discovered more about some of the challenges that older people and their partners-in-care face, reflect and share your thoughts about the following questions:

  • What are your experiences of these challenges?
  • Do different partners-in-care tend to do their own thing and work toward their own goals, or is there a collaborative approach?
  • What challenges or tensions have you come across or could you envisage that might impact the success of a partners-in-care approach?
  • What risks are posed by teams or individuals working in isolation from the broader care team?

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Older People: a Partnership Model

Deakin University

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    Discover what some of the different perspectives of each partner-in-care within a partnership-centred approach might be.

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