An innovative program to assist older people to live independently in their homes is about to get under way in the Clarence Valley, building on work recently undertaken by Southern Cross University’s Aged Services and Learning Research Centre (ASLaRC).

Starting in April, the project will involve up to 50 people who have been referred for support at home.

Funded by the NSW Department of Human Services, Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC), the project follows a study by Professor Colleen Cartwright (pictured), director of ASLaRC, into the use of a re-ablement approach in community care services.

“Instead of just providing support services, this approach is person-centred, building on the hopes and needs of each individual and setting goals along the way,” Professor Cartwright said.

The aim is to ensure that individuals who have been identified as needing home care services are provided with the best opportunity to rebuild and maintain their independence and ability to live in their own homes.

“We have really learned from the disability sector about how to help people identify what they can do and what they can relearn to do,” she said. “It is about building on their strengths, rather than focussing on what they can’t do.”

Professor Cartwright said this approach was being used in New Zealand, in Western Australia and in Sydney, but this was the first project of its type on the North Coast.

Instead of providing standard support services, the re-ablement approach involves a multi-disciplinary team made up of allied health professionals including a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a registered nurse, a care co-ordinator, and re-ablement assistants or support workers.

“It’s person-centred and goal-focused with steps along the way. It may be that the ultimate goal for one person is to be able to walk to the corner shop or go to the post office, so the first step may be with a physio to help that person get dressed on their own,” Professor Cartwright said.

“The focus is on getting them well again and independent.”