The Living Lab partnership uses scientific research to address problems identified by people who live and work in long-term care. The continues dialogue between researchers and all end-users has identified three main research themes have been identified for the Living Lab (Figure 2):
Care and support improving the daily life of older people and their families;
Staffing and innovation management;
Redesign in long-term care practice;
The first research theme focuses on improving the daily life of older people and their families through improvements in support, delivery of care services and treatment. This research takes place at the micro level of care service delivery, that is, in the direct care relationship with older people, their families and professionals. Examples of these research projects include the National Prevalence Measurement of Quality of Care (https://nl.lpz-um.eu/nl), improving palliative care for people with dementia (8) or developing diagnostic techniques for heart failure in nursing homes (9).
Scientific knowledge on how best to equip professionals in doing their job is imperative to improve support and care service delivery. The second research theme, therefore, focuses on staffing and innovation management in long-term care. Example projects include optimal skills-mix, team culture and organizational climate (10), development of a decision-support application for community nurses and case managers in dementia care (11), all aimed at evidence-based innovation of care service delivery and support.
Radical alterations are sometimes necessary to change current long-term care practice. The third research theme includes studies on the impact of redesign in long-term care practice, focusing on how care service delivery can be improved in order to better meet the needs and wishes of older people and their families. Example projects include evaluation of green care farms as an alternative to traditional nursing homes (12), development and evaluation of a geriatric rehabilitation care pathway (13) or population-based financing in home care (14).
The Living Lab intends to improve the quality of scientific research. This includes the development of adequate assessment instruments for important outcome measures in long-term care, such as the identification of pain in people with dementia (15) or assessment of daily life in nursing homes (16). Scientific research conducted within the Living Lab uses a variety of research methodologies and paradigms, including pragmatic trials and action-based research approaches.
The Living Lab also aims to improve the quality of education. It is important to encourage enthusiasm for young people to choose a professional career in the field of geriatrics and gerontology and to build an infrastructure of health care innovators for long-term care. Up-to-date scientific knowledge is implemented in educational programs for future students on all levels: from vocational training to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The Living Lab also enables students to work within innovative research projects. To illustrate, the Living Lab developed in 2018 a new bachelor’s program for nurses led by Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. Unique to the program is that students are employed by one long-term care organization during the study program but receive training and education in a learning network across the Living Lab partner organizations. Themes such as leadership, palliative care, innovation and technology are being taught directly by professionals of the long-term care organizations and researchers working within the Living Lab. Educators from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and the vocational training institutes provide innovative didactic techniques and support. Furthermore, we have integrated Virtual Reality techniques have been integrated into university courses for bachelor’s degree students to learn about innovations in home care (17). At the same time, this educational module is used within the partner long-term care organizations to train home care staff in principles of reablement (18).