The state of physical environments in Australian residential aged care facilities
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Objective. This paper examines the quality and safety of the physical environment in Australian residential aged care facilities (RACFs). Design. Cross-sectional study. One assessor completed environmental audits to identify areas of the physical environment that needed to be addressed to improve the wellbeing and safety of residents. Setting. Nine RACFs participating in a broader falls prevention project were audited. RACFs were located in Queensland, Tasmania or Victoria and were chosen by convenience to represent high level, low level, dementia and psychogeriatric care, regional and metropolitan facilities, small and large facilities and a culturally specific facility. Main outcome measure. An environmental audit tool was adapted from a tool designed to foster older person friendly hospital environments. The tool consisted of 147 items. Results. Across all sites 450 items (34%) required action. This ranged from 21 to 44% across sites. The audit domains most commonly requiring action included signage, visual perception and lighting, and outdoor areas. Conclusions. Although not representative of all residential facilities in Australia, this audit process has identified common environmental problems across a diverse mix of residential care facilities. Results highlight the need for further investigation into the quality of physical environments, and interventions to improve physical environments in Australian RACFs.
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