As the Aged Care Quality and Safety Royal Commission moves into its sixth month, some of the issues the aged care sector is facing are becoming very clear. There have been numerous stories of neglect and poor treatment in aged care, especially residential care, and the shortcomings of parts of the sector are very starkly illustrated through these individual stories.
The challenge for the Royal Commission will be to find the answers - affordable, sustainable and practical solutions that can be widely rolled out. Even for the providers with the best models of care, it is a challenge to ensure that every older person, in every room of their facility, is provided with high quality care all the time.
Care for older people is highly complex, not only because the reason they are in residential care in the first place is that they have complex care needs that cannot be managed in a domestic environment, but also because each individual’s care needs are different and they change over time. Managing the logistics of adequate care for each person at each level of care, let alone ensuring their engagement in the life of the facility and the broader community, is one of the many challenges facing providers.
NARI is currently conducting a review of the literature on what makes good aged care, which we will submit to the Royal Commission. We are looking at the factors associated with resident satisfaction and quality of life. They are largely relational, both residents and staff want to spend more time with each other, talking and listening rather than just getting the care tasks done.
How you achieve this is partly about staffing, having adequate levels of appropriately qualified staff with the skill mix needed to provide care but that is not the only issue. The Workforce Taskforce on Aged Care suggested that we need to change the negative narrative around aged care, make working in aged care a more attractive career path, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. The Taskforce also recommended the establishment of an Aged Care Growth and Research Translation Centre.
The model of care, the environment, both physical and psychological and the overall culture of the organisation are also important factors, including valuing and respecting residents and staff as the first priority. Communication between staff, staff and management, with families and residents is also key to resident wellbeing.
It has been said that the Baby Boomers will be the ones to change the face of aged care but I think this is a myth. Unless there is widespread systemic change as a result of this Royal Commission, there is little the Baby Boomers will be able to do when they are in care. A Baby Boomer in need of aged care will be just as powerless as his or her parents and grandparents were before them. We all need to support the Royal Commission to find the right answers.