This paper explores how group home staff in Victoria, Australia, responded to residents with an intellectual disability (ID) as they developed age-related health conditions.
The analysis was based on a longitudinal study that followed 17 ageing group home residents over a 3-year period. Eighty-three interviews were conducted with 30 group home staff in 17 group homes. Dimensional analysis, a variant of grounded theory, guided data collection and analysis.
Findings revealed that the organisations all had systems in place to address health issues. However, the results also suggest an inability of staff to differentiate between significant health conditions and normal age-related changes, thus contributing to delays in care for serious medical conditions.
Lack of knowledge about normal ageing and an absence of organisational policies influence timeliness of diagnosis and treatment for people with ID. Group home staff could be more effective advocates for older residents, leading to improvements in health outcomes, if they had basic knowledge about normal ageing and symptoms of common age-related illnesses and if group home agencies provided clearer guidance to their staff. The study has implications for staff education and organisational policy development for group homes.