AAG Conference

2017 Conference Wrap Up

The 50th AAG Annual Conference saw more than 450 delegates at Crown Perth. This multidisciplinary event brought together researchers, educators, policy makers, health professionals and service providers, all with an interest in ageing. A golden opportunity is generally defined as a chance to do something that is likely to be successful and rewarding. Hence the conference theme, “Ageing: The Golden Opportunity" reflected not only the 50th anniversary of the AAG conference, it focused on the golden opportunity which the older population can create for themselves, the community and the economy. The jam-packed program brought together inspirational keynotes and over 200 speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines who shared their experiences, research and knowledge.

Nikki McDerby, ACT committee member and Associate Lecturer in Pharmacy, University of Canberra was kind enough to share her Conference experience.

The 2017 AAG Conference in Perth was a very inspiring and well-run event. Last year I felt like the conference was a blur, the nerves of presenting made it difficult for me to really enjoy the experience. This year, without the pressure of presenting I had the mind space to plan and enjoy each day and meet some the interesting minds attending while keeping a loose eye on my poster.

The welcome plenary was an inspiring collection of talks that highlighted Indigenous Australian aged care service needs. This seemed like a fairly timely topic given the recent media attention given to the acknowledged failing of the Closing the Gap initiative in reducing the gap in health outcomes and access to services between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Speakers highlighted that the incidence of dementia is five times higher in Indigenous Australians than non-indigenous Australians and onset is much younger. Considering the trends in cardiovascular comorbidities and pathophysiology of dementia these statistics are not overly surprising, however gives further importance and priority to establishing culturally safe and aware services to support older Indigenous Australians with dementia. Also, not surprisingly, the development of these services should include community engagement, however the speakers reminded us of the cultural diversity within the Indigenous Australian population which presents a challenge in that a one-size fits all model will not work. There is the further layer of complexity added by the large geographical range that aged care services need to cover.

One speaker caught my attention highlighting that Indigenous Australians need access to better medication review services to help improve consumer understanding of medicines, and reduce unnecessary polypharmacy. This highlighted to me a significant gap in pharmacy services, as the home medicines review service currently in existence is clearly not designed with cultural appropriateness in mind, and there would be minimal (if any) access to pharmacist-led medication reviews outside larger towns, particularly for people living in the remote communities. The current home medicines review service is essentially a one-size fits all model, a type of model the speaker highlighted as insufficient for meeting the varied cultural needs of the Indigenous population, and could be an interesting area for future policy planning.

There was a strong clinical research focus this year. As a clinician and researcher, this was great to see so many fellow pharmacists presenting at this year's conference to share their work. This also meant the conference was a rewarding and unique opportunity for me to network with my colleagues working across Australia, discuss our various areas of interest and research, and create contacts for potential future collaboration.

I attended both the AAG Annual General Meeting on Thursday and AAG’s Student and Early Career Group (SECG) meeting on Wednesday. The SECG meeting was a great opportunity to meet the SECG representatives and group leaders, who are a very enthusiastic and passionate group of individuals who have put a lot of time and effort into organising webinars throughout the year (among other things) to help other early career researchers develop their skills. It was a great chance to find out the kinds of research that other early career researchers are doing and get some tips on the types of issues that can come up during the PhD journey and how to avoid (manage) some of these problems. I also finally joined the SECG Facebook group.

I took in a preview to Prof Sube Banerjee’s upcoming event in Canberra during the plenary session after lunch. He is a very entertaining and engaging presenter, speaking to the audience about multimorbidity in dementia. He highlights an area that I love about geriatric medicine, the complexity and challenges associated with safely managing multiple co-morbidities in older frail adults. He asks us to question and consider re-writing the rules of managing these patients in the 21st century. This is particularly important given that more people are living longer with multiple conditions, which increase hospital admissions and reliance on emergency services. He logically explains that the model of ‘superspecialism’ fails to maintain overall health as we have lost the generalist approach to treatment and we struggle to manage complex patients.

Sube highlighted pain management as a particularly poor area of management in patients with dementia; post-surgical patients with dementia received 50% less on average pain relief than patients without dementia which is something I find very concerning and will keep further to the front of my mind during my clinical role. People with dementia can’t communicate their pain or need for pain relief or effectively use patient controlled analgesic systems. They are also more risk of delirium and often get antipsychotics for agitation rather than analgesia. I look forward to seeing him speak again in Canberra after the conference.

The social side of the Conference as I was forewarned was just as exciting and I was not disappointed. The Conference Dinner, themed, with a 1950's inspired Rock 'n 'Roll, Rockabilly, Glamorous feel.

Overall, attending the 2017 AAG Annual conference was a fantastic learning and networking opportunity, and I would highly recommend attending these types of events to early career researchers to broaden their professional contact networks and gain a better understanding about how much work is involved in supporting older people, whether in residential care or community.

Click here for 2017 Conference Program, Abstracts and Presentations

Click here for images from the Conference, by Michael Blyde Photography

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