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Speaking volumes: Asking older people ‘what matters’ is changing the dialogue

Published 05/04/2022

"Asking a simple question opened the door for a whole range of things." Hear from Central Highlands Rural Health on how the 4Ms changed the care of older people.

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Asking older people ‘What matters to you’ is a simple question with a huge impact. It supports a conversation which can improve healthcare outcomes and experiences by addressing what’s important to older people. 

"Asking a simple question opened the door for a whole range of things. Many residents had small requests which we could easily accommodate," said Kate Jones from Central Highlands Rural Health.

‘What matters’ is part of the 4Ms framework for age-friendly care, which also includes medication, mind and mobility. It represents a shift for healthcare providers to focus on the needs of older adults. And it’s at the centre of our Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative with five Victorian health services.

Delivering the 4Ms looks different from person to person, depending on priorities and preferences. It can range from enjoying their favourite activities to having a say about how they manage their healthcare. 

For one resident at Creswick Nursing Home, staff added a whiteboard in her room so she was less anxious about her medications and daily activities.

“It’s made a huge difference. The morning chats are her designated time to tell us how she’s feeling and what she needs for the day. It’s just a matter of asking what is important to you today?”

Kate Jones, Central Highlands Rural Health

It’s filled with information that’s important to her – how she’s feeling that day, her activities, physio appointments, and the name of the nurse in charge.

The 4Ms has also led to staff forming greater connections with residents. At Central Highlands Rural Health, staff now actively seek opportunities to have conversations about what matters to residents. 

For one resident in particular there has been a noticeable change in the way he has opened up to staff to share personal stories and feelings.

“He loves to tell stories about his life and career. These chats give us a chance to connect with our residents in a much deeper way, allowing us to deliver the best care we can,” said Angela Monteleone, Central Highlands Rural Health.

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