The University of Southampton

HLTH6162 Fundamentals of Complex Care in Older People

Module Overview

This module aims to develop your knowledge, skills, confidence, and self-awareness in respect of supporting older people with complex care needs, by providing structured opportunities to study independently and engage in dialogue with others about societal attitudes towards older people and ageing, systems of care, the ageing process, age-related illnesses, and how this creates complexity in relation to fundamental and other aspects of care. The module will introduce you to key ideas underpinning complexity theory in relation to health and social care; that is, in complex systems, unpredictably and paradox are ever present. You will be able to test and explore these ideas in relation to real-life case studies presented online, pertaining to older people from culturally diverse backgrounds with multiple health conditions. At the start of the module you will select a case study and complete a series of guided questions and activities (individual and group, online and face to face) related to that complex case involving an older person; the case will allow you to identify, research, and evaluate the key principles of complexity science in relation to older peoples’ healthcare. In summary, the module provides a comprehensive overview of current evidence and approaches in relation to complex care in older adults primarily using web-based case studies. It also provides opportunities to critically reflect on your attitudes, beliefs and values in respect of assessing and meeting the needs, whilst respecting the dignity and rights of older people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

* Develop your knowledge and understanding of the complex care needs of older people, in the wider multifaceted context of service delivery, care regulations, and relevant policy and legislation * Provide you with a range of structured opportunities to identify the complex care needs of older people through guided independent research, dialogue with peers, professionals, and lay members, and self-reflection * Provide you with opportunities to research and present a complex case relevant to working with older people with complex needs

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically review the epidemiology, sociology, and psychology of ageing and frailty; 
  • Critically review the impact of ageing and disease processes on health and social care need, and quality of life, including family dynamics;   
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the delivery of fundamentals of care, e.g. in relation to nutrition, skin care, and measuring frailty;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the concept of complexity, its constitutive factors, and its relevance to older peoples’ care;
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the organisational, sociocultural, and legal context in which care is delivered to older people with complex needs and human rights;
  • Critically reflect on personal values, attitudes, language, and skills in respect of older people with         complex care needs and human rights, and recognise how they impact on patient care; 
  • Critically reflect upon own role and contribution to improving support, and upholding rights, for older people with complex care from culturally diverse backgrounds and their families; 
  • Systematically research, analyse, and present a complex case, drawing on a range of data and evidence.


* Demography, epidemiology, sociology, and psychology of human ageing * Key concepts, principles, and approaches to recognising older peoples’ care needs and rights * Fundamental ideas underpinning complexity theory in relation to health and social care * Fundamentals of care and their delivery * Recognising and measuring frailty in older people * The impact of ageing and disease processes on health and social care need * Measuring and promoting quality of life in older people. * Policy, legal, and organisational context of supporting older people with multiple morbidities * Culturally competent care; diversity awareness; cultural values, assumption, and beliefs * The importance of using enabling, non-discriminatory language, and challenging cultural stereotypes * The emotional aspects of caring and providing intimate body care; ‘emotion’ work * Models of reflection and the significance of reflective practice * Introduction to e-learning, presentation, and group-working skills

Special Features

Principal Investigators of world-leading research projects, clinicians, service users, social care workers, and other experts will be invited to give talks and to share their knowledge in relation to cases.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module uses a blend of approaches to teaching including (1) web based case-studies and conventional teaching methods, including (2) academic tutorials, small group-work, and guest lectures/talks, delivered in two, two-day study blocks, which will normally run from 9-12 and 1-5 (28 hours of face to face teaching in total), and (3) peer-mentoring, which entails linking up with another other student on the course who is from a different country and/or care setting than your own. (1) You will be presented with two case studies based on a real or realist situation that reflect the complexity of supporting older people from culturally diverse backgrounds in health and/or social care settings. Each case will reflect a particular concept or topic related to the fundamentals of care, including for example, meeting nutritional needs, recognising frailty, and the role of family carers. You will be asked to think critically about each case and work independently through a series of carefully designed questions to investigate the situation further, to develop your capacity to manage and respond effectively to the complexities involved. Each case will comprise of a range of learning materials such as links to policy documents and research papers, newspaper articles, spoken dialogue and visual files, which you will be asked to review and use to create an effective response to the case. The case studies will be web-based on Blackboard and we will utilise the full functionality of this managed learning environment, such as adaptive release, self and peer assessment features, and course blogs to ensure you have a rich and global learning experience. Full instructions on how to use Blackboard will be provided during induction and a wide range of training materials is available online from this link (2) You will be expected to attend two, two-day study blocks at Highfield Campus, University of Southampton to deepen your learning about complex care in older people through dialogue with others and by engaging with research-led teaching. These study blocks are designed to scaffold and support your learning and to provide opportunities for learning through dialogue with people from a different care setting and/or country than your own. Each study block will normally run from 9-12 and 1-5 and have a set of clear learning goals related to the web-based case studies, and incorporate small group activities to foster peer-support, interagency and inter-professional group working, and global learning. The study blocks will provide an opportunity for you to discuss findings from your own research and to work on cases in more depth. Guest speakers will be invited to give key note lectures and talks related to the topic under scrutiny. (3) You will be asked to link up with another student on the module who is from a different country and/or care setting than your own. We call this peer-mentoring and the idea is that it creates an opportunity for you to learn about complex care in older people by spending time with a peer - another student - who comes from a different background and/or care setting than your own. You will be expected to undertake some learning and assessment activities with your peer mentor for the web-based case studies and during the study blocks. Together these strategies will allow for a deep understanding of complex care in relation to older adults, and provide a rich range of global learning opportunities.

Wider reading or practice44
Preparation for scheduled sessions44
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Preparation for scheduled sessions80
Total study time250

Resources & Reading list

Victor, C. (2004). The social context of ageing: A textbook of gerontology. 

The World Health Organisation Programme on Ageing and the Life course.

Kydd, A., Duffy, D. T. & Duffy, F. R. (2009). The Care and Wellbeing of Older People: A Textbook for Health Care Students. 

Making our health and care systems fit for an ageing population..

Tolson, D., Booth, J. & Schofield, I. (2011). Evidence informed nursing with older people. 

The care of frail older people with complex needs: time for a revolution..

Gawande, A. (2014). Being Mortal: Medicine and what Matters in the End. 

Nolan, M., Davies, N. & Grant, G. (2001). Working with older people and their families. 

Ballatt, J., And Campling, P (2011). Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the culture of healthcare.. 

best practice statements for nurses caring for older people in acute settings.

The Lancet series on Ageing published.

Resources to support quality of life for people living, dying, visiting and working in care homes.

Older people's and relatives' experiences in acute care settings: systematic review and synthesis of qualitative studies. ,47 , pp. 89-107.

Bowker, L., Price, J. & Smith, S. (2012). Oxford handbook of geriatric medicine. 

Website for British Geriatrics Society including a wide range of resources for those with interest in care for older people.

Hollins, S. (2009). Religions, Culture and Healthcare: A practical handbook for use in healthcare environments. 

Plsek, P. E., Greenhalgh, T., Lane, A., & Plsek, P. Complexity science The challenge of complexity in health four articles Series editors. PubMed Central. ,323 , pp. 625-628.

British Geriatrics Society Fit for Frailty Guidance Part 2.

Barnes, M (2012). Care in Everyday Life. An Ethic of Care in Practice. 

Cumulative complexity: a functional, patient-centered model of patient complexity can improve research and practice.. science The challenge of complexity in health four articles Series editors. ,65 , pp. 1041-1051.



Research and Presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Oral presentation 30%
Written summary  ( words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Summative assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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