Residents with mild cognitive decline and family members report health students ‘enhance capacity of care’ and bring ‘a new breath of life’ in two aged care facilities in Tasmania

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Abstract

Background

Care provided by student doctors and nurses is well received by patients in hospital and primary care settings. Whether the same is true for aged care residents of nursing homes with mild cognitive decline and their family members is unknown.

Objective

To investigate the perspectives of aged care residents with mild cognitive decline and their family members on interdisciplinary student placements in two residential aged care facilities (RACF) in Tasmania.

Design, setting and participants

A mixed methods design was employed with both qualitative and quantitative data collected. All participants were interviewed and completed a questionnaire on residents' quality of life, during or after a period of student placements in each facility (October–November, 2012). Qualitative data were coded for themes following a grounded theory approach, and quantitative data were analysed using SPSS.

Results

Twenty-one participants (13 residents and 8 family members) were recruited. Four themes were identified from the qualitative data and included (i) increased social interaction and facility vibrancy; (ii) community service and personal development, (iii) vulnerability and sensitivity (learning to care) and (iv) increased capacity and the confidence of enhanced care. Residents' quality of life was reported to be mostly good in the presence of the students, despite their high care needs.

Conclusion

Residents with mild cognitive decline and their family members perceive a wide array of benefits of student provided care in RACFs including increased social interaction. Future quantitative research should focus on whether changes in care occur for residents as a result of student involvement.

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