Nursing students at the University of the Sunshine Coast are being given the opportunity to live next door to the campus in a nursing home, and spend time socialising with residents.
The students will be given heavily subsidised accommodation and in return they will spend time with the residents at Cooinda Aged Care, sitting and chatting over a cup of tea, playing games, or eating together with them in the dining room.
The accommodation trial will be studied to see how having students living on site in a nursing home affects the residents, carers, families and students, and will also examine the experience of the students: how they felt, and what happened when they lived in the nursing home.
Talking social isolation in aged care
Lecturer in nursing, Dr Apil Gurung, who specialises in aged care, gerontology and qualitative research, will run the research project. He spoke to HelloCare about the trial.
The early interest has been strong, he said. “People are asking questions, and want to be part of it.”
Though nursing homes can be busy places, teeming with lots of different people, Dr Gurung said social isolation is also a significant problem in residential aged care.
Loneliness can lead to higher rates of dementia, depression, an increased risk of hospital transfers and longer hospital stays, Dr Gurung said, and yet the social aspects of aged care are often overlooked.
“The students will mostly be involved in providing social interactions for the residents,” Dr Gurung explained.
Students will be required to spend 30 hours per month with the residents, or roughly the equivalent of one hour per day, but the hours can be banked up to fit in with the students’ timetables.
Board will be approximately $100 and will include the furnished room with ensuite, all meals, television, wifi, and laundry services.
The accommodation will be based in rooms that have been decommissioned by Cooinda Aged Care, and are slightly removed from the main part of the nursing home, but still only a short stroll away so it’s easy for students to engage with the residents.
Trial to begin in July
Cooinda Nursing Home is within walking distance of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Gympie campus, and a shuttle bus is available to take students to the USC’s Sippy Downs facility.
The aim is for four or five nursing students to live in the nursing home starting in July, and the trial will end in November.
Dr Gurung said the candidate screening process is key, as it’s crucial the right candidates are chosen.
The trial is based on the Humanitas multigenerational living projects in the Netherlands, the country that also pioneered the dementia village approach to dementia care, Dr Gurung said.
“Every older person has a story to tell”
Dr Gurung said there can be a stigma attached to aged care, and that stems from ageism.
“People link old people with being less deserving. But they each have their own unique personality, and they have a story to tell.
“Older people are the biggest users of our healthcare system,” he said.
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