Customised care

Research shows that obesity rates peak at the age of 65 and, with an ageing population in New Zealand, it’s timely to ask how prepared our aged-care facilities are for very overweight patients.

A portrait of Caz Hales and Helen Rook

Dr Caz Hales (above left) and Dr Helen Rook (above right) from the Faculty of Health are leading a research project that builds on their earlier research into how hospitals care for larger patients.

“We know from working in hospitals that a lot of resources are required to care for this group of people, in terms of human resources and equipment. We also know the layout of the space, such as the doorways, often aren’t large enough for specialised equipment to get through. We wanted to see whether there are similar concerns in aged-care facilities,” says Caz.

Data will be collected from three aged-care facilities, including publicly funded, charity-funded, and religious-based care facilities, and will be analysed alongside a national database that records the activities of organisations that care for the elderly.

One of the focus areas of the study is current funding models. “At the moment, there is no funding allowance for increases in patient needs,” says Helen. “That’s problematic because people who are sicker, or have obesity, require different equipment and care. The same amount of funding for each patient doesn’t allow for an equitable service.”

The research being conducted by Caz and Helen is unique in New Zealand and will involve consultation with an advisory team of industry, consumer representatives, and care providers.

According to Helen, this could improve the impact of the research. “When we work collaboratively, we can have an impact directly on those who are engaged with the services so that there can be better planning to care for this group of people in the future.”