Dementia and aged care research

Hammondcare leads or partners in a range of dementia and aged care research projects, including studies on the delivery of residential, community and respite aged care as well as research that explores the interface between aged care and palliative care. Scroll down to see completed projects. 

Strategic partnership

NHMRC Partnership Centre on dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in older people

HammondCare is one of four service providers partnering with the National Health and Medical Research Centre to form the Partnership Centre on dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in older people - also known as the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDPC).

This is the first of six research Partnership Centres which will focus on key health priorities. Alongside the NHMRC and HammondCare, partners include Alzheimer’s Australia, Helping Hand and Brightwater Care Group.

The Partnership Centre aims to deliver and disseminate research-informed change and important health and health care services improvement by bringing together researchers, policy makers, service providers and health and aged care workers in an applied research program. A key distinctive of the research of the Partnership Centre is its alignment with the actual delivery of care and improved quality of life for people in need.

Chief Investigator is Associate Professor Susan Kurrle, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, NSW. HammondCare’s involvement in the Partnership Centre is a HammondCare Foundation project supported by The Thomas Foundation.

 Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre website

Current research

Community care for the elderly: needs and service use study (CENSUS)

This project will help us better understand the needs of older people and their caregivers who receive community-based care services, and how well these services meet their needs over time. This project is also investigating whether community services improve quality of life of older people and reduce caregiver burden.This is a collaborative project undertaken with the University of NSW (UNSW) and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (DCRC) - Assessment and Better Care and is supported by DCRCs.

Going to stay at home

The Going to Stay at Home project is the development of a seven day intensive residential carer training course that involves both the primary family carer and the person living with dementia. The aim of the project is to provide a practical, cost effective, intensive and accessible residential family carer training course to enable family carers and people living with dementia to continue living in the community. This project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and is being undertaken in collaboration with UNSW.

The program was run at HammondCare Miranda in 2013. Going to Stay at Home will also be running (for one week only) in Tamworth in March 2014. For more information, see the Going to Stay at Home website.

Beyond respite: designing effective wellness programs for caregivers

By investigating the well-being of caregivers of people with dementia across a number of wellness domains, this project aims to gain insight into the day-to-day wellness needs of caregivers and identify the constraints that limit caregivers achieving a sense of good well-being. This project is funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and is being undertaken in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), UNSW and Alzheimer's Australia.  

Improving palliative care for people with advanced dementia living in residential care

The aim of this project is to improve the delivery and quality of palliative care for residents with advanced dementia living in residential aged care by developing a facilitated case conferencing resource. This resource will be used to facilitate case conferencing between aged care staff, health professionals (including GPs) and residents’ primary decision-makers to discuss the current stage of illness and agree on a management plan based on evidenced-based best practice. The impact of the intervention on residents’ symptoms and quality of life in the last days of life, as well as family satisfaction with care staff attitudes and care delivery, will also be evaluated. This project is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and is being undertaken in collaboration with investigators from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of Queensland (UQ), QUT, University of Technology (UN) and the University of Notre Dame (UND).

Integrated care framework for advanced dementia: (ICF-D)

This project aims to develop a nationally applicable and accessible, gold-standard framework to guide point-of-care palliative dementia care, raise community and aged care provider awareness of dementia as a terminal illness and increase confidence to have conversations about end of life care decisions and preferences. This project is funded by Alzheimer’s Australia and is being undertaken by HammondCare in collaboration with Flinders University.

Evaluating the acceptance and effectiveness of a bidet in a residential respite setting

Dementia is a leading cause of disease burden in Australia. Functional deficits in daily living activities such as personal hygiene are predictable outcomes of the progression of the disease. Dementia is commonly accompanied by behavioural changes, including agitation and aggression, frequently associated with the performance of daily activities, including toileting, and often directed towards the carer. This project will use a semi-structured, in-depth interview with care recipients, their family carers and aged care staff to determine the level of acceptance of the bidet by the user; the perceived efficacy of the bidet to cleanse and dry the user; the ways in which the bidet is used; and to develop an understanding of the issues and benefits of bidet use. This project is funded by DCRCs.

Investigating older people, informal carer and aged care staff's views and preferences for consumer directed care

This national project will develop and apply a health economic model to the development, implementation and evaluation of a consumer directed care (CDC) approach to community care service delivery in Australia. This project will generate improvements to the operation and cost efficiency of CDC and, as a consequence, impact positively on the quality of CDC service delivery. This project is being led by Flinders, partnered by HammondCare, ACH Group Aged Care and Housing Group, Catholic Community Services, Helping Hand Aged Care, Resthaven, UQ, USYD and Monash University. This project is financially supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant.

Completed research

Review of current seating practices in supporting people living with dementia in residential aged care - a pilot study

This project involved a systematic review of literature relating to seating for people living with advanced dementia; a review of available seating products; the development of a typology of seating and a review of current clinical practices used in residential aged care facilities. Current practice has no empirically based guidelines but anecdotally, clinical experience suggests that seating is suboptimal and may lead to poor outcomes. This project laid foundations for future practical intervention studies to improve care outcomes for residents and staff. This project was funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and a report on this project will soon be released. This project inspired the production of the 10 tips about seating and postural care for older people booklet. The booklet is available to download for free (click here). This project was funded by DCRCs and was undertaken in collaboration with UNSW, Brightwater Care Group and the Independent Living Centre, NSW.

Empowering the carer through assistive technology

This project aimed to develop and implement a strategy to increase the acceptance and use of assistive technology (AT) to decrease carer burden and support carers in helping older Australians to remain safely in their own homes for as long as possible. There are already a multitude of ATs that exist, however many of the technologies are driven by technological advancement rather than by the needs of the user or the carer. This project involved conducting a detailed assessment of the carer's need that might be addressed by AT and then determine which particular AT provided the the best solution to meet this need. This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and was undertaken in collaboration with USYD.

Review of the literature on the effectiveness of assistive technology in the care of people with dementia

This project reviewed existing literature to identify assistive technologies that can be applied in everyday practice to improve mobility, communication, cognition, manipulation and orientation. This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and published in the PDRC Report. To read further information about this project and products please click here.

Doll therapy in dementia specific residential care

This HammondCare project explored the use of a baby doll to provide enhanced life engagement to residents with dementia. Peer-reviewed journal articles support the use of dolls in triggering happy memories and/or soothing patterns of behaviour. Measurements of behaviour and emotion were taken before, during and after the therapy sessions for analysis. When data collection was completed and analysed, results were used for the purpose of creating an individualised doll therapy plan for each resident, to be implemented in their life engagement program.

Environmental design for people with dementia: charting the gap between theory and practice in the design of new residential facilities

The objectives of this project were to identify the specific gaps between theory and practice of environmental design for residential care facilities (eg the failure to avoid over-stimulation or to provide way-finding cues), to discover obstacles to best practice (lack of knowledge, cost, other priorities etc), to develop strategies to overcome the obstacles to ensure best practice and to disseminate these strategies for discussion. The project was funded by the DCRC and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Wollongong. To read further information abut this project, please click here.


The use of environmental assessment tools for the evaluation of Australian residential facilities for people with dementia

This project evaluated three environmental audit tools to determine their strength and weaknesses in the Australian environment. The results indicated that there are two alternatives to the use of the Therapeutic Environment Screening Survey for Nursing Homes in Australian aged care settings: the Stirling Environmental Assessment Tool which is valid and reliable and provides a great deal of information for guiding discussions on environmental modifications; and the Environmental Assessment Tool which is quick and easy to use, valid and reliable and arguably a better measuring instrument than the SEAT, especially if the Highlighting and Familiarity scales are shortened. This project was funded by the DCRC and was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Wollongong. To read further information about this project, please click here.


Pre and post occupancy evaluation of Southwood cottages

On completion of Southwood, 55 high-care residents were relocated from Sinclair Home, a "traditional" nursing home environment, to Southwood, which adopted a small scale home-based model of care. This study monitored the effects of relocation and the new model of care on resident engagement, distress and interaction with staff. Staff work patterns and family satisfaction were also measured. The environments were audited with three separate tools.

The study showed that resident engagement increased following the transition and further increased in the months following staff training. Staff also showed an increase in interactive tasks with residents after the move and again after training. Low rates of distress were recorded in both environments. Southwood cottages scored higher on all domains of the three audit tools, offering a more private, home-like residence. Restraints were not used in Southwood, resulting in a higher level of falls which decreased back to pre-transition levels after a few months. Families of residents were more satisfied with the environment, staff, and food. This study was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Sydney. To read further about this project please click here.

A review of the empirical literature on the design of physical environments for people with dementia

This project aimed to identify the principles that will assist designers, architects and planners to provide environments that reduce disability and enhance quality of life of people with dementia. This project also sought to provide a foundation for the discussion of a coherent strategy for encouraging the application of the design principles and the provision of appropriate assistive technologies. The results of the project indicate that a reasonable level of certainty that designers and architects may be confident about using unobtrusive safety measures; varying the ambiance, size and shape of spaces; providing single rooms; maximizing visual access to important features and providing for stimulus control with the periodic availability of high levels of illumination. The project was undertaken in collaboration with DCRC UNSW.

Keeping curtains on track

In this HammondCare project, Residents of HammondCare’s special care unit for people with severe and persistent challenging behaviours were continuously pulling down curtains, which resulted in damage to walls and fixtures and the ripping out of curtain tracks. This project sought to identify alternatives to the strong curtain tracking and fixtures used at the cottage, which were unable to cope with such treatment by the residents, to ensure that residents could continue to enjoy the many benefits of curtains in the home. This project determined that the behaviour of the residents in pulling the curtains down was not triggered by any other stimuli aside from the presence of the curtains. HammondCare partnered with an interior designer and curtain maker to identify alternatives that would reduce the impact of this behaviour on the environment, facility, staff and residents. 

Improving communication about end of life issues for people with dementia

This project aimed to significantly improve the quality of care provided to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia by developing and implementing systems, skills and resources for carers and health professionals that will facilitate timely communication on end-of-life issues with those that are diagnosed and their families.This study was led by researchers at QUT and was conducted in collaboration with Spiritus, The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus and Alzheimer's Australia.