Aged care modelling doesn’t consider those living with a disability

A PhD researcher says planning for aged care and ‘successfully ageing’ is not taking into account those living with physical disabilities.

Provisional Psychologist Nicola Heath’s comments were made at last Saturday’s Polio Day 2017 at Bendigo Town Hall, where she pointed out that while Australia has an ageing demographic and people are living longer, one in five Australians live with a disability.

 “The dominant model of successful ageing states that to age well, older adults must be free of disease and disability, maintain high levels of cognitive functioning and remain actively engaged in life.

 “According to this model, it is therefore not possible for people with a long-term disability or impairment such as post-polio syndrome be considered to be ageing successfully.

 “This is important because, despite concerns that the current model ignores and encourages the marginalisation of those ageing with disabilities, international governments have increasingly turned to the successful ageing research to help form policy responses that aim to limit the future burden of caring for an ageing population,” Ms Heath said.

 The theme of Polio Day 2017 was ‘Your Mind Matters’. Many polio survivors experienced often difficult and distressing periods in their lives, initially with long periods in hospital, within rehabilitation facilities, isolation from families and isolation in the community due to the fear attached to the disease. Many are now experiencing unexpected new symptoms occurring between 15-40 years after the initial infection. Polio survivors are Australia’s largest physical disability group.

 Independence Australia’s manager of psychology Dr Andrew Sinclair, told the gathering that chronic pain is a big issue for people living with a physical disability. He noted that many patients are not given the tools they need to deal with pain adequately and psychology has a lot to offer in relation to chronic pain management.

 “We tend to think chronic pain is a fault with the system and we can fix it. While the medications we currently have can mask pain they can’t fix chronic pain. Psychological approaches are a useful adjunct to medical treatment to manage persistent pain.

 “More than 50 per cent of clients referred to my team are referred for assistance to manage chronic pain. After just two four-hour pain management sessions for polio survivors in Geelong, many reported they now had the knowledge to make change in their lives to enable them to better manage their pain,” Dr Sinclair said.