The aged care sector has been undergoing a time of significant review and reflection. In the aftermath of the numerous scandals that came to light, where particular centres were found to have grievously contravened basic standards of care, many questions have been raised as to how to proceed best as a sector.

While the centres that were proven to have severely neglected their duty of care are in the minority, many experts in the field are calling for the sector at large to lend their time, attention and resources to establishing safe and secure approaches, to protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable.

Tiffany Petre of PwC Australia, lead a report investigating the depth and situation of social infrastructure gap in the health and ageing sectors within Australia.

From their investigation Ms Petre highlights that in order to address systemic issues inherent within the current structure of the health and ageing sectors, adjustments needed to be made on a macro and micro level.

She emphasises the call to focus on person-centred care as a basis for guiding resident treatment programs.

Prevention and integrated processes of care and support are raised as necessary goals for aged care facilities to deeply establish in their day-to-day approach to caring. It is through the adoption of these approaches that the aged care sector at large may start to journey down the path to sustainability, equality and transparency into the future.

After examining the contextual factors at play in Australia, including the increasing pressure of ageing baby boomers, Petre and the team argues that the following systemic issues are currently and will continue to be a problem.

  • A disjointed health care sector
  • A disjointed aged care sector
  • Fragmented and multiple care services and support channels that older Australians are called on to navigate
  • Shortages in health and aged care workers
  • Downward pressures on informal care
  • Ballooning serious mental health difficulties from low quality of life for aged care residents

Speaking into the current situation Ms Petre stated, “We need to have a more holistic perspective to care risks, [to] find a better way to attract and retain our workforce and shift from an illness perspective into understanding risks early for prevention.”

Shifting to a wellbeing model, inclusive of integrated health care practices and an emphasis on preventative care is argued as a way to bring the aged care sector into a sustainable future. With pressures on the system only increasing, the sector is advised to enter into the discussion and implementation of sustainable, holistic practices.

Ms Petre argues that currently there is an unhealthy focus on efficiency at the cost of personalised quality of life care.

“Care is often designed to be efficient as opposed to what residents prefer or their personal choices. People don’t have control in their life and services aren’t necessarily what they want.”

Ms Petre advocates for the following principles to be followed.

  1. Risk & outcomes focussed – investment and activity should be focussed on impact for people’s wellbeing and what they value (outcomes that matter to them).
  2. Person centred – care is organised around the recipient rather than being driven by the provider.
  3. Access & equity – people can have access to appropriate quality support and care that is affordable and effective, but also sensitive to the need for people to take personal responsibility.
  4. Effective & efficient – reduce wasteful expenditure in the system and minimise investment in activities that do not support desired outcomes.
  5. Integrated care and support systems – support is coordinated and comprehensive across the system.
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