Quality care is a common concern for anyone in, or involved with, aged care. With story after story in the media about abuse and low quality care, policy makers are looking for ways to improve the aged care sector in Australia.

And one of the leading things that can be taken from the aged care sector, is learning from past mistakes and embracing feedback.

Today, at The Next Phase of Aged Care Reform conference in Sydney, there was a panel discussion that looked into all things quality and customer experience in aged care.

Chaired by Ian Yates from COTA Australia, the panel included Nick Ryan (Australian Aged Care Quality Agency), Rae Lamb (Aged Care Complaints Commissioner), Professor Ron Paterson (Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes) and Andrea Coote (Aged Care Quality Advisory Council)

Andrea Coote says that when looking to improve aged care, the most important place to look at is the “consumer”.

“I think it’s important that we are discussing about consumers and consumer needs, we understand who we are speaking about so we can make proper strategies moving forward”.

Andrea believes that before making decisions, it’s important to be well informed about the sector and those involved.

“Data collection and data sharing is essential, if we want to know about the programs that have to be put in place to make the consumer experience better – we have got to understand what those consumers are, who they are and we’ve got to understand when things don’t go right.”

“It’s through proper data sharing that we can do that.”

“It’s not going to be cheap, it’s going to be quite expensive – but I think it’s important for us to understand the types of decisions that consumers, who are not going to be in care, but the people who are going to help make those decisions, and what drives those people.”

“If we’re going to have a really good quality aged care system going forward, we really need to understand exactly what our market is, what the demands are and what the tension points are going to be.”

Rae Lamb’s reflected on her time as the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, which she was appointed nearly two years ago.

“There’s huge opportunities for what can be done better at the front door of services in terms of responding to concerns that are raised by consumers and their families”

“Your response when somebody has a concern, is absolutely crucial to what happens next.”

“The better you respond, the less likely it will escalate to something that it doesn’t need to be,” Rae says in reference to the widespread negative media coverage that often occurs with aged care.

Rae pointed out that no aged care organisation is perfect, “even the best services should be getting complaints” because “people should feel that they can raise their concerns”.

“It’s what [the provider] does about them that’s important.”  

Nick Ryan, who’s recent personal experience included placing his own father-in-law into aged care, said that there is something in common between all the friends and families involved.

“I know how disempowering it can be, irrespective of my job with aged care”.

“What you see in aged care, unlike any other comparable industry, is that residents and their family members already have a front loaded sense of loss, shame, guilt and fear.

“In a way you don’t see in, for example, childcare which can often be full of hope and potential”.

“Aged care holds this kind of cultural psychology of disempowerment. Not only should providers welcome it, we need to understand that everyone carries a degree of vulnerability”.

“There is a sense of vulnerability for everyone involved – and that’s why it’s so important to have opportunities to understand the corporate psychology that goes with aged care, to see that we double our efforts to be respectful and responsive to the experience of the residents and their families”.     

Andrea says that change is on the horizon, “we are on the cusp of change”.

“It’s up to all of us to help enhance that”.

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