The conversations of life

Walking in their shoes: ‘empathy suits’ trial a first for aged care


Not-for-profit provider ACH Group has purchased three Premature Ageing Unisex Leisure (PAUL) Suits, developed by the University of Sydney’s Department of Rural Health over the last 10 years – to help its staff gain a real sense of what it feels like to be their residents.

While there are other providers who use ‘simulation training’ in their training, ACH are the first to trial the suits in Australia as part of its Level Three training requirements for its 800 care and support workers.

The suits are designed to simulate a range of health conditions with arm and wrist straps to restrict movement, a leg splint to reduce the range of motion on one side of the body, and weights to create fatigue.

There are even eye goggles which are marked or fogged up to replicate eye conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma.

Developing an empathetic approach

Under the trial, staff will wear a suit to carry out everyday tasks like going to the supermarket and getting into a car to learn how to better support their residents.

“It’s not about building pity for a person, but empathy, because you experience those challenges for yourself,” ACH’s General Manager People and Culture Nichole Tierney explained.

We think it’s a great idea. Most people who study aged care have never lived with anyone with a disability or complex health needs.

What better way to learn – and be able to provide better-quality care – than by experiencing it yourself?

ACH Group dementia experts Teresa Moran and Jodie Roberts trial the ‘empathy suit’ with Sydney University researcher Paul Bennett.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

Leave A Reply