27 Sep 2022

Spotlight on Age and Ageing Clinical Academic Group (AAA CAG)

The AAA CAG is a powerhouse of ideas and networks and its work provides evidence of the power of translational research. Co-led by Associate Professor Genevieve Steiner-Lim and Professor Friedbert Kohler, the AAA CAG is working on projects that are making a significant difference, not only to the lives of older people, caregivers, and clinicians, but also to the healthcare system. They are making discoveries, delivering these discoveries to patients and communities whilst developing the next generation of leaders in ageing research.

Gold-standard model of care for memory clinics

In developing a gold standard model of care for a memory clinic in South-Western Sydney (SWS), Assoc. Prof. Steiner-Lim and her team researched existing international models, discovering what worked and what didn’t. Engaging close to 100 stakeholders including people with dementia, their caregivers, clinicians, nurses and allied health professionals, policy makers, local councils, Local Health District (LHD) administrators, PHNs and GPs, they co-created a gold-standard “one-stop-shop” model of care which is now being adopted by Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) to inform national service guidelines for memory clinics across Australia.

“This project wouldn’t have come about without SPHERE’s AAA CAG. All the connections we made, and all the people involved in this project, came through the SPHERE network. It is this connectivity that means we can utilise the best people and resources across multiple organisations for the ultimate benefit of patients,” said Assoc. Professor Steiner-Lim.

Community Outreach Geriatric Service (COGS) in SWS

Utilising the power of SPHERE’s connections, the AAA CAG worked to develop the model of care for a community outreach geriatric service in SWS informed by a needs assessment that Assoc. Professor Steiner-Lim and geriatrician Dr Mark Hohenberg carried out in the Macarthur region.

“Thanks to the connectivity in the AAA CAG, the model of care for COGS was also informed by the successful Southcare Geriatric Flying Squad model run by Assoc. Prof Peter Gonski and his group in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD). Building on this knowledge exchange through the CAG’s networks, COGS has now implemented successfully across South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD).” (read more)

The community geriatric outreach service provides medical and nursing care for older people in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). The service provides a viable alternative to hospital-based treatment for older people from RACFs preventing avoidable admissions and providing a coordinated care in RACFs.

Not only has the service provided assistance to patients themselves, but the healthcare system in SWS has also benefited. Compared to 2019 figures, there were 1389 less ambulances in 2022 for people aged over 60 years from RACFs to hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) in SWS. This reduction in ambulance call-outs reduces healthcare costs as well as the strain on Emergency Departments across the district.

“This is another fantastic example of how collaboration across the SPHERE network has helped to improve healthcare services at a district level,” explained Assoc. Professor Steiner-Lim.

Supporting people with dementia and their caregivers in the Canterbury-Bankstown community

A SPHERE AAA CAG seed grant awarded to early career researcher, Dr Diana Karamacoska, from the NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University has provided the impetus for the development of a dementia-friendly community in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA. The project helped launch the Canterbury Bankstown Dementia Alliance, which is a working group comprising representatives from WSU, Canterbury-Bankstown Council, SWSLHD, Dementia Australia, CASS Care, Australian Nursing Home Foundation, and Bankstown Dementia Carers Group. The alliance informs, guides and translates research being undertaken in this area.

With an estimated 8,000 people living with dementia in the Canterbury-Bankstown region, the project supported by SPHERE’s AAA CAG, Western Sydney University and Bankstown Sports Club, has been capturing the insights of culturally and linguistically diverse people living with dementia and their caregivers through one-on-one interviews and delivering information sessions about dementia to these communities. Together, they have successfully co-created and delivered dementia education sessions in different languages including English, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Within the first year of the project, Dr Karamacoska and her colleagues have built successful connections with the multicultural community, engaged diverse groups in dementia literacy, and heard directly from people with dementia on how they want to be supported by their community. The information that they have gathered will now be used to inform policy and practice changes among service providers and the council.

Developing their people

The AAA CAG is building their network and infrastructure to deliver programs to benefit the ageing community. Since the CAG’s inception, the executive committee has been deliberately structured so that each of the five working groups (geriatric syndromes, models of care, assistive technology & environment, workforce & education, and quality of life) are co-led by a mixture of senior and junior clinicians and researchers from a wide range of SPHERE partner organisations, with equitable gender balance. This governance structure for the CAG ensures its strategy and direction has input from a range of voices and promotes a culture of mentorship whilst securing succession planning.

“Further and deliberate investment in early career researchers, junior clinicians, and higher degree research students through the AAA CAG’s seed and partnership grant funding rounds ensures that the AAA CAG is doing everything possible to build capacity in the next generation of clinicians and researchers to enable quality care and empower the lives of older Australians,” said Assoc Prof Steiner-Lim.

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