Winter enewsletter

Welcome to the winter edition of our enewsletter. Our researchers have been busy launching new projects and publishing profusely to share their new discoveries. You spoke and we listened. We have improved and updated our website so you can better connect with us. We have a new website. In this edition you will find

  • Hope for people living with Alzheimer's
  • 100 and proud of it
  • See the person, hear their story
  • Are our statistics a wakeup call?
  • Inaugural Dick Lefroy Oration

You can be part of our research story by consider being a research volunteer or by donating to one of our research programs: dementia, depression, Indigenous health and ageing. We sincerely, appreciate your support and wish to thank you for joining us on our research journey.

Leon Flicker Director WA Centre for Health & Ageing

It’s time to don the gown

It’s time to don those gowns and hats, flip those tassels and celebrate reaching a big milestone. There are big things ahead for Drs Elizabeth Wong and Pascalle Bosboom on their recent PhD completion. Pascalle’s thesis investigated our understanding of how dementia factors, such as forgetfulness, might impact the quality of life of people living with Alzheimer's disease. It was Pascalle’s hope that, by enhancing our understanding of the factors that influence quality of life, will improve the long-term health outcomes of people living with dementia. Her thesis has brought us a step closer to this.

 Pascalle is a clinical neuropsychologist and mainly works in private practice. She continues to be involved in research, as she sees great value in helping to improve our current treatments. Today’s treatments were yesterday’s research, she says. We are very proud of their achievements. Congratulations to Liz and Pascalle!

LtoR: KMcCaul, Dr  Wong, Prof Almeida, Prof Flicker & Dr Bosboom


 See the person, hear their story

They say “a picture paints a thousand words” - and this photographic, educational resource aims to do just this, by stimulating and challenging uninformed assumptions and stereotypes around ageing. To date there has been a lack of teaching tools available to counteract the perceived widespread disinterest in caring for older people. Researchers at WACHA collaborated with Dr Gabrielle Brand form the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences’ Education Centre to develop the Depth of Field: Exploring Ageing resource tool.

Photo: Diana Credit: Shoshana Kruger

The images presented are rawand honest and are complemented by audio-narrated film of their health care experiences. The documentary style photographs were taken by renowned and talented WA photographer Steve Wise. The photographic stories represent a diverse range of health and social issues on a continuum of ageing, ranging from dependence in a hostel setting to healthy older adults living independently in the community. The Depth of Field aims to encourage medical students and professionals to use a more humanistic lens and consider new perspectives around ageing. It is the hope of project leader Dr Gabrielle Brand that the photographs will evoke an awareness of ageism and challenge negative attitudes towards older adults. This study was funded by the Western Australian Nurses Memorial Centre Charitable Trust.

100 and proud of it

Reg B. celebrated his 100th birthday in April. When we rang him to congratulate him, he said, “it’s like a dream. I didn’t think I’d reach a hundred, but I guess I should be proud of it.” His two daughters organized a surprise birthday party with family and friends attending the garden party. Including 6 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and 1 new great, great granddaughter. Reg’s secret to his long life is a happy 65 year marriage, a quiet life and hard work. He and his wife still grow their own vegetables, and stay active. In addition to the birthday wishes he received from our researchers, Reg received a letter from the Queen and our Prime Minister.

Reg has been part of Australia’s longest running men’s health research project. The project will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. The Health in Men’s Study is exploring successful ageing. Look out for more news relating to our Health in Men’s Study 20th anniversary celebrations.

Connecting the dots

Our Indigenous Ageing experts travelled to Melbourne to attend the Continuing the Conversation: addressing dementia in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities workshop last month. Dr Kate Smith, Associate Prof Dina LoGiudice and Roslyn Malay shared their knowledge and research findings with the group. Our colleague, Roslyn Malay who is a Kija woman and experienced Indigenous researcher is a member of the NATSIDAG advisory Group.

Ros was able to highlight the issues faced by Indigenous Australians who live in remote communities and the progress made in addressing these disconnections. The workshop resulted in energetic and enthusiastic conversations around advancing dementia outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. It provided a great opportunity to share all the work our Indigenous team have conducted in the Kimberley, over the past 10 years.

It was interesting to note that many of the take home messages from our research could be applied across Australia. Moving forward we hope to now assist carers gain more control over their lives and empower them to steer the decisions that affect them. The workshop brought together a diverse group of people who all have an intimate knowledge and understanding of the dementia issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Solutions to problems were shared and how together progress can be made in improving the lives of people living with dementia in Aboriginal and TSI communities.

The following priority areas for action were set 1. education and awareness of dementia 2. risk reduction strategies for dementia 3. accessible services and supports for people with dementia and 4.high quality and culturally appropriate residential aged care options for people with dementia. Stay tuned for updates about this work.

Save the date: Dick Lefroy Oration Wednesday 12th August

A pioneer, inspirational, influential, passionate and determined. Fitting words to describe the founder of geriatric medicine in Western Australia, Dr Dick Lefroy. In celebration of the enormous contribution that Dr Lefroy has made to the founding of Geriatric medicine and aged care services in Western Australia, the WA Centre for Health and Ageing has established an annual Dick Lefroy Oration, in his honour.

Professor Kaisu Pitkälä has been invited to present the inaugural Dr Dick Lefroy Oration. “Effective interventions in helping people with dementia”

Professor Kaisu Pitkälä, MD, PhD, is the head of General Practice and Primary Health Care at the University of Helsinki and is chief physician at the Helsinki University Central Hospital. She has played an instrumental part in progressing ageing research in Finland in her involvement in large randomized trials with a focus on the well-being and quality of life in the elderly. Her main research interests are ageing, in particular preventive and rehabilitative approaches among frail older people. She has conducted numerous randomized controlled trials examining the effect of various comprehensive interventions on frail older people with a range of illnesses such as; dementia, delirium, loneliness, malnutrition, disability, and cardiovascular risk factors. She is currently investigating cognitive training approaches for people living with dementia in a large randomized trial. Professor Pitkälä has completed training both in Finland and has held several professional appointments in the field of geriatrics, including President of the Finnish Geriatrics Society, Vice President of the Finnish Gerontological Society and Vice President of the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing Society and is currently a member of European Union for Medicine of Ageing academic board.

Professor Kaisu Pitkälä Professor Pitkälä will also be giving a public presentation on 11th August 2015 at 6 -7pm at The University Club. This event is hosted by UWA’s Institute of Advanced Studies and the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Science’s School of Primary, Aboriginal and Rural health care. For more informaiton and to RSVP click here

Are our statistics a wakeup call?

With 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and 1,800 new cases being diagnosed each week and with no cure on the horizon. Should we be focusing some of our attention on assisting those with dementia living the best life? Our researchers have been working on answering this question for some time now. They are currently conducting trials to alter the brain’s messaging pathways to re-wire it and improve the mood of people who are living with dementia, who are experiencing depressive symptoms.

This work is important as Alzheimer’s disease is often complicated by the presence of depression. Current available antidepressant medications are not 100% effective, so alternatives are needed. This trial is an attractive option for those who cannot take or do not respond to medication. If you are interested in taking part in this research or would simply like to know more click here

Research to improve the Aged Care experience

As I ponder the pros and cons of each residential care facility, I know that I am not alone when it comes to having to make a very difficult decision, as to when the ‘right time’ for one parent or both to enter residential care. With the current projections indicating that older adults will represent 24 % of the Australian population in 2056, this path won’t be a lonely one.

After visiting numerous facilities I am heartened that the staff seem to really enjoy their work and see their job of caring as important and valuable, even if some sections of our society don’t agree. Not only do these people who are in the business of caring, see their job as a privilege but they are interested in improving their skills and service, by applying the latest research findings to the work. I saw this first hand at the recent launch of a new guide to better practice Toward Organizational Culture change (TOrCCh) resource.

For all organisations changing culture is a challenge but this resource has made it easier. The resource offers a proven and practical approach to inspire change within an organisation. The guide and templates provide a step-by-step course of action for staff to follow, from the first realisation that change is needed through all steps of implementation. Previous research conducted by Associate Professor Christopher Etherton-Beer, had identified a need for organisational culture change, which impacted on the well-being of residents and staff in a residential care environment. The TOrCCh project was funded by the Federal Government’s Department of Social Services under the Encouraging Better Practice in Aged Care funding initiative and are freely available for download on the website. People living and working in residential care facilities will benefit from this new resource. Watch our video explaining the program Click here to watch

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