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1.  Social Networks and Memory over 15 Years of Followup in a Cohort of Older Australians: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing 
Journal of Aging Research  2012;2012:856048.
The purpose was to examine the relationship between different types of social networks and memory over 15 years of followup in a large cohort of older Australians who were cognitively intact at study baseline. Our specific aims were to investigate whether social networks were associated with memory, determine if different types of social networks had different relationships with memory, and examine if changes in memory over time differed according to types of social networks. We used five waves of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and followed 706 participants with an average age of 78.6 years (SD 5.7) at baseline. The relationships between five types of social networks and changes in memory were assessed. The results suggested a gradient of effect; participants in the upper tertile of friends or overall social networks had better memory scores than those in the mid tertile, who in turn had better memory scores than participants in the lower tertile. There was evidence of a linear, but not quadratic, effect of time on memory, and an interaction between friends' social networks and time was apparent. Findings are discussed with respect to mechanisms that might explain the observed relationships between social networks and memory.
PMCID: PMC3437737  PMID: 22988510
2.  Perinatal Outcomes by Mode of Assisted Conception and Sub-Fertility in an Australian Data Linkage Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e80398.
Fertility treatment is associated with increased risk of major birth defects, which varies between in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and is significantly reduced by embryo freezing. We therefore examined a range of additional perinatal outcomes for these exposures.
All patients in South Australia receiving assisted conception between Jan 1986–Dec 2002 were linked to the state-wide perinatal collection (all births/stillbirths ≥20 weeks gestation or 400 g birth weight, n = 306 995). We examined stillbirth, mean birth weight, low birth weight (<2500 g, <1500 g), small size for gestational age (<10th percentile, <3rd percentile), large size for gestational age (>90th percentile), preterm birth (32–<37 weeks, <32 weeks gestation), postterm birth (≥41 weeks gestation), Apgar <7 at 5 minutes and neonatal death.
Relative to spontaneous conceptions, singletons from assisted conception were more likely to be stillborn (OR = 1.82, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.34–2.48), while survivors as a group were comprehensively disadvantaged at birth, including lower birth weight (−109 g, CI −129–−89), very low birth weight (OR = 2.74, CI 2.19–3.43), very preterm birth (OR = 2.30, CI 1.82–2.90) and neonatal death (OR = 2.04, CI 1.27–3.26). Outcomes varied by type of assisted conception. Very low and low birth weight, very preterm and preterm birth, and neonatal death were markedly more common in singleton births from IVF and to a lesser degree, in births from ICSI. Using frozen-embryos eliminated all significant adverse outcomes associated with ICSI but not with IVF. However, frozen-embryo cycles were also associated with increased risk of macrosomia for IVF and ICSI singletons (OR = 1.36, CI 1.02–1.82; OR = 1.55, CI 1.05–2.28). Infertility status without treatment was also associated with adverse outcomes.
Births after assisted conception show an extensive range of compromised outcomes that vary by treatment modality, that are substantially reduced after embryo freezing, but which co-occur with an increased risk of macrosomia.
PMCID: PMC3885393  PMID: 24416127
3.  Coaching Older Adults and Carers to have their preferences Heard (COACH): A randomised controlled trial in an intermediate care setting (study protocol) 
The Australasian Medical Journal  2012;5(8):444-454.
Frail older people who are considering movement into residential aged care or returning home following a hospital admission often face complex and difficult decisions.Despite research interest in this area, a recent Cochrane review was unable to identify any studies of interventions to support decision-making in this group that met the experimental or quasi-experimental study design criteria.
This study tests the impact of a multi-component coaching intervention on the quality of preparation for care transitions, targeted to older adults and informal carers. In addition, the study assesses the impact of investing specialist geriatric resources into consultations with families in an intermediate care setting where decisions about future care needs are being made.
This study was a randomised controlled trial of 230 older adults admitted to intermediate care in Australia. Masked assessment at 3 and 12 months examined physical functioning, health–related quality of life and utilisation of health and aged care resources. A geriatrician and specialist nurse delivered a coaching intervention to both the older person and their carer/family. Components of the intervention included provision of a Question Prompt List prior to meeting with a geriatrician (to clarify medical conditions and treatments, medications, ‘red flags’, end of life decisions and options for future health care) and a follow-up meeting with a nurse who remained in telephone contact. Participants received a printed summary and an audio recording of the meeting with the geriatrician.
The costs and outcomes of the intervention are compared with usual care. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12607000638437).
PMCID: PMC3442189  PMID: 23024719
Caregivers; continuity of patient care; cost-benefit analysis; health care costs; intermediate care facilities; patient-centred care; quality of life; randomised controlled trial
4.  The effects of house moves during early childhood on child mental health at age 9 years 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:583.
Residential mobility is common in families with young children; however, its impact on the social development of children is unclear. We examined associations between the number, timing and type of house moves in childhood and child behaviour problems using data from an ongoing longitudinal study.
Complete data on residential mobility and child behaviour was available for 403 families. Three aspects of mobility were considered: (a) number of house moves from birth to <2 years, 2 to <5 years and 5 to 9 years; (b) lifetime number of house moves; and (c) moves associated with different housing trajectories characterized by changes in housing tenure. The primary outcomes were internalizing and externalizing behaviour problems at 9 years derived from Achenbach’s Child Behaviour Checklist. Linear regression analyses were used to investigate the effect of the housing variables on internalizing and externalizing behaviour problem scores with adjustment for a range of sociodemographic and household covariates.
Moving house ≥2 times before 2 years of age was associated with an increased internalizing behaviour score at age 9 years. This association remained after adjustment for sociodemographic and household factors. There was no association between increased residential mobility in other time periods and internalizing behaviour, or mobility in any period and externalizing behaviour. There was no effect of lifetime number of moves, or of an upwardly or downwardly mobile housing trajectory. However, a housing trajectory characterized by continuous rental occupancy was associated with an increased externalizing behaviour score.
These findings may suggest that there is a sensitive period, in the first few years of life, in which exposure to increased residential mobility has a detrimental effect on mental health in later childhood.
PMCID: PMC3490785  PMID: 22853693
Residential mobility; Child behaviour; Child development; Housing; Longitudinal studies
5.  How effective are programs at managing transition from hospital to home? A case study of the Australian transition care program 
BMC Geriatrics  2012;12:6.
An increasing demand for acute care services due in part to rising proportions of older people and increasing rates of chronic diseases has led to new models of post-acute care for older people that offer coordinated discharge, ongoing support and often a focus on functional restoration. Overall, review of the literature suggests there is considerable uncertainty around the effectiveness and resource implications of the various model configurations and delivery approaches. In this paper, we review the current evidence on the efficacy of such programs, using the Australian Transition Care Program as a case study.
The Australian Transition Care Program was established at the interface of the acute and aged care sectors with particular emphasis on transitions between acute and community care. The program is intended to enable a significant proportion of care recipients to return home, rather than prematurely enter residential aged care, optimize their functional capacity, and reduce inappropriate extended lengths of hospital stay for older people. Broadly, the model is configured and targeted in accordance with programs reported in the international literature to be effective. Early evaluations suggest good acceptance of the program by hospitals, patients and staff. Ultimately, however, the program's place in the array of post-acute services should be determined by its demonstrated efficacy relative to other services which cater for similar patient groups.
Currently there is a lack of robust evaluation to provide convincing evidence of efficacy, either from a patient outcome or cost reduction perspective. As the program expands and matures, there will be opportunity to scrutinise the systematic effects, with lessons for both Australian and international policy makers and clinical leaders.
PMCID: PMC3314563  PMID: 22416921
6.  Lower age at menarche affects survival in older Australian women: results from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:341.
While menarche indicates the beginning of a woman's reproductive life, relatively little is known about the association between age at menarche and subsequent morbidity and mortality. We aimed to examine the effect of lower age at menarche on all-cause mortality in older Australian women over 15 years of follow-up.
Data were drawn from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (n = 1,031 women aged 65-103 years). We estimated the hazard ratio (HR) associated with lower age at menarche using Cox proportional hazards models, and adjusted for a broad range of reproductive, demographic, health and lifestyle covariates.
During the follow-up period, 673 women (65%) died (average 7.3 years (SD 4.1) of follow-up for decedents). Women with menses onset < 12 years of age (10.7%; n = 106) had an increased hazard of death over the follow-up period (adjusted HR 1.28; 95%CI 0.99-1.65) compared with women who began menstruating aged ≥ 12 years (89.3%; n = 883). However, when age at menarche was considered as a continuous variable, the adjusted HRs associated with the linear and quadratic terms for age at menarche were not statistically significant at a 5% level of significance (linear HR 0.76; 95%CI 0.56 - 1.04; quadratic HR 1.01; 95%CI 1.00-1.02).
Women with lower age at menarche may have reduced survival into old age. These results lend support to the known associations between earlier menarche and risk of metabolic disease in early adulthood. Strategies to minimise earlier menarche, such as promoting healthy weights and minimising family dysfunction during childhood, may also have positive longer-term effects on survival in later life.
PMCID: PMC2908577  PMID: 20546623
7.  Health-related Quality of Life among hospitalized older people awaiting residential aged care 
Health related quality of life (HRQoL) in very late life is not well understood. The aim of the present study was to assess HRQoL and health outcomes at four months follow-up in a group of older people awaiting transfer to residential aged care.
Secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial conducted in three public hospitals in Adelaide. A total of 320 patients in hospital beds awaiting a residential aged care bed participated. Outcome measurements included HRQoL (Assessment of Quality of Life; AQoL), functional level (Modified Barthel Index), hospital readmission rates, survival, and place of residence at four months follow-up.
In this frail group the median AQoL was poor at baseline (median 0.02; 95%CI -0.01 – 0.04) and at follow-up (0.05; 95%CI 0.03 – 0.06). On leaving hospital, more than one third of participants who were moving for the first time into nursing home care rated themselves in a state worse than death (AQoL ≤ 0.0). Poor HRQoL at discharge from hospital (AQoL ≤ 0.0) was a significant predictor of mortality (HR 1.7; 95%CI 1.2 – 2.7), but not hospital readmission nor place of residence at four months follow-up. Improved function was a predictor of improved HRQoL among the surviving cohort.
People making the transition to residential aged care from hospital have very poor HRQoL, but small gains in function seem to be related to improvement. While functional gains are unlikely to change discharge destination in this frail group, they can contribute to improvements in HRQoL. These gains may be of great significance for individuals nearing the end of life and should be taken into account in resource allocation.
PMCID: PMC2725036  PMID: 19630996
8.  Bioelectrical phase angle values in a clinical sample of ambulatory rehabilitation patients 
Phase angle (PhA) is derived from the resistance and reactance measurements obtained from bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) and is considered indicative of cellular health and membrane integrity. This study measured PhA values of rehabilitation patients and compared them to reference values, measures of functional ability and serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels to explore their utility as a clinical tool to monitor disease progression and treatment efficacy.
This cross-sectional observational study was conducted on 215 ambulatory rehabilitation patients aged 20 – 94 years. All participants had been hospitalised for a stroke, orthopaedic or other condition resulting in a functional limitation. PhA was derived from BIA analysis and functional ability characterised using the Functional Independence Measure (FIM), timed up and go (TUG) and maximal quadriceps strength (MQS). Serum levels of CRP were also collected.
Stroke patients had the highest PhA (5.3°) followed by elective orthopaedic surgery (5.0°) with the other group (4.3°) significantly lower than both previous categories (p < 0.001). Ambulatory rehabilitation patients' PhA values were dependent on age and sex (p < 0.001), lower than published age matched healthy reference values (p ≤ 0.05) and similar to other hospitalised or sick groups, but also higher than values reported in critically ill patients. Patients with CRP values less than 10 mg.L-1 had significantly (p = 0.005) higher mean PhA values. Furthermore, the highest functional status quartiles had significantly higher PhAs (p ≤ 0.04) for the FIM, MQS and TUG measures.
The results suggest that the phase angles of rehabilitation patients are between those of healthy individuals and seriously ill patients, thereby supporting claims that PhA is indicative of general health status. Phase angles are a potentially useful indicator of functional status in patients commencing an ambulatory rehabilitation program with a normal hydration status.
PMCID: PMC2551587  PMID: 18782456
9.  Home versus day rehabilitation: a randomised controlled trial 
Age and Ageing  2008;37(6):628-633.
Objective: to assess the effect of home versus day rehabilitation on patient outcomes.
Design: randomised controlled trial.
Setting: post-hospital rehabilitation.
Participants: two hundred and twenty-nine hospitalised patients referred for ambulatory rehabilitation.
Interventions: hospital-based day rehabilitation programme versus home-based rehabilitation programme.
Main Outcome Measures: at 3 months, information was collected on hospital readmission, transfer to residential care, functional level, quality of life, carer stress and carer quality of life. At 6 months, place of residence, hospital re-admissions and mortality status were collected.
Results: there were significant improvements in the functional outcomes from baseline to 3 months for all participants. At discharge, carers of patients in day hospital reported higher Caregiver Strain Index (CSI) scores in comparison to home rehabilitation carers (4.95 versus 3.56, P = 0.047). Patients in day hospital had double the risk of readmission compared to those in home rehabilitation (RR = 2.1; 95% CI 1.2–3.9). This effect persisted at 6 months.
Conclusions: day hospital patients are more likely to be readmitted to hospital possibly due to increased access to admitting medical staff. This small trial favours the home as a better site for post-hospital rehabilitation.
PMCID: PMC2582455  PMID: 18723862
ambulatory rehabilitation; day rehabilitation; home rehabilitation; randomised controlled trial; elderly
10.  Do social networks affect the use of residential aged care among older Australians? 
BMC Geriatrics  2007;7:24.
Older people's social networks with family and friends can affect residential aged care use. It remains unclear if there are differences in the effects of specific (with children, other relatives, friends and confidants) and total social networks upon use of low-level residential care and nursing homes.
Data were drawn from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Six waves of data from 1477 people aged ≥ 70 collected over nine years of follow-up were used. Multinomial logistic regressions of the effects of specific and total social networks on residential care use were carried out. Propensity scores were used in the analyses to adjust for differences in participant's health, demographic and lifestyle characteristics with respect to social networks.
Higher scores for confidant networks were protective against nursing home use (odds ratio [OR] upper versus lower tertile of confidant networks = 0.50; 95%CI 0.33–0.75). Similarly, a significant effect of upper versus lower total network tertile on nursing home use was observed (OR = 0.62; 95%CI 0.43–0.90). Evidence of an effect of children networks on nursing home use was equivocal. Nursing home use was not predicted by other relatives or friends social networks. Use of lower-level residential care was unrelated to social networks of any type. Social networks of any type did not have a significant effect upon low-level residential care use.
Better confidant and total social networks predict nursing home use in a large cohort of older Australians. Policy needs to reflect the importance of these particular relationships in considering where older people want to live in the later years of life.
PMCID: PMC2174923  PMID: 17916238
11.  Can volunteer companions prevent falls among inpatients? A feasibility study using a pre-post comparative design 
BMC Geriatrics  2006;6:11.
Falls in hospital are frequent and their consequences place an increased burden on health services. We evaluated a falls prevention strategy consisting of the introduction of volunteers to 'sit' with patients identified as being at high risk of falling.
Two four bed 'safety bays' located on medical wards in two hospitals within southern Adelaide were used. Ward fall rates (expressed as falls per 1000 occupied bed days) were compared in the baseline period (February-May 2002) with the implementation period (February – May 2003) using incident rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals. The number of hours of volunteered time was also collected.
No patient falls occurred on either site when volunteers were present. However, there was no significant impact on overall ward fall rates. In the baseline period, there were 70 falls in 4828 OBDs (14.5 falls per 1000 OBDs). During the implementation period, there were 82 falls in 5300 OBDs (15.5 falls per 1000 OBD). The IRR for falls in the implementation versus baseline period was 1.07 (95%CI 0.77 – 1.49; P = 0.346). Volunteers carried out care activities (e.g. cutting up food), provided company, and on occasions advocated on behalf of the patients. Volunteers donated 2345 hours, at an estimated value to the hospitals of almost $57,000.
Volunteers may play an important and cost-effective role in enhancing health care and can prevent falls in older hospital patients when they are present. Full implementation of this program would require the recruitment of adequate numbers of volunteers willing to sit with all patients considered at risk of falling in hospital. The challenge for future work in this area remains the sustainability of falls prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC1557853  PMID: 16895609
12.  Transitional care facility for elderly people in hospital awaiting a long term care bed: randomised controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7525):1110.
Objective To assess the effectiveness of moving patients who are waiting in hospital for a long term care bed to an off-site transitional care facility.
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting Three public hospitals in Southern Adelaide.
Participants 320 elderly patients (mean age 83 years) in acute hospital beds (212 randomised to intervention, 108 to control).
Interventions A transitional care facility where all patients received a single assessment from a specialist elder care team and appropriate ongoing therapy.
Main outcome measures Length of stay in hospital, rates of readmission, deaths, and patient's functional level (modified Barthel index), quality of life (assessment of quality of life), and care needs (residential care scale) at four months.
Results From admission, those in the intervention group stayed a median of 32.5 days (95% confidence interval 29 to 36 days) in hospital. In the control group the median length of stay was 43.5 days (41 to 51 days) (95% confidence interval for difference 6 to 16 days). Patients in the intervention group took a median of 21 days (6 to 27 days) longer to be admitted to permanent care than those in the control group. In both groups few patients went home (14 (7%) in the intervention group v 9 (9%) in the control group). There were no significant differences in death rates (28% v 27%) or rates of transfer back to hospital (28% v 25%).
Conclusions For frail elderly patients who are awaiting a residential care bed transfer out of hospital to an off-site transitional care unit with focus on aged care “unblocks beds” without adverse effects.
PMCID: PMC1283272  PMID: 16267077

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