Carers survey first of its kind
21 March 2013
A first of its kind study in Australia is highlighting the impact of vast geographical distances and a shortage of therapists on the decisions rural carers of people with a disability make about whether to move or to stay in regional areas.
According to Faculty of Health Sciences researchers involved in the University of Sydney's 'Wobbly Hub and Double Spokes' research project therapy service delivery can be problematic for people with a disability living in rural areas.
The survey, which is divided into five sections, is exploring the current access to therapy services including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and psychology and has so far attracted 125 respondents from western NSW.
Project manager, Dr Angela Dew, recently co-presented information gathered as a prelude to the Wobbly Hub study at the Carers NSW 2013 Biennial Conference 'Caring Working Living' stating the study has national significance for the delivery of allied health services both locally and internationally in regions facing similar geographic or workforce challenges.
Due to the shortage of providers, families are often obliged to travel long distances at great financial and personal cost. For adults with a disability, the situation is particularly difficult as access to therapy drops off after school entry, and therapy for adults is virtually non-existent.
Led by Professor Craig Veitch, the Wobbly Hub project received five-year funding under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership for Better Health grant, and will use the survey results to better understand the challenges of therapy service delivery in remote areas. It will also be instrumental in the development of new sustainable models of service.
"There is no one solution to address the issue, but early project findings suggest that flexible and innovative recruitment of therapists, combined with services that are tailored to local needs, will be the focus of the future," suggests Dr Dew.
"Therapists are increasingly using technology for inter-professional communication, but with families becoming more techno-savvy the potential exists for therapists to innovatively use technology to advise and support isolated families.
"Another potential solution is to use community-based therapy assistants to work remotely to implement therapist-designed programs. Assistants are used extensively in health services but until recently have not been widely used in disability services."
The project is calling for additional survey participants who are primary carers of people with a disability or developmental delay and live in regional and rural areas of western NSW. Take the survey now.
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Interview contact: Dr Angela Dew, Project Manager, 9351 9050
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