Traditionally, complaints are seen as a bad thing. If a person is making a complaint, it means that something is not going well.

And that applies to aged care as well – if a resident, loved one or staff member is making a complaint, then it is highly likely than an older person, or a number of them, is not receiving adequate care.  

But complaints can be a good thing. Complaints are an opportunity to improve, to better oneself and your organisation.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’s 2016-17 annual report shows that more people are becoming aware of the service and raising their concerns.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner handles complaints from people about Government funded aged care and home care services but acts independently from any government body.

The report covers the first full financial year since responsibility for complaints was transferred from the Australian Department of Health to the Commissioner on the 1st of January 2016.

More Complaints Than Ever

The Commissioner, Rae Lamb, and her team around the country received 4,713 complaints this year – 78 per cent of those were in regards to residential aged care.

This is 20 per cent more than the Department and the Commissioner received between them in 2015-16.

However, Lamb doesn’t see the increase as a bad thing, “I don’t think the rise in complaints shows deteriorating standards of care.”

“Certainly we see instances where care has been very poor, and there are still people who should complain who don’t.”

“Nonetheless the number of complaints has to be balanced against the fact that more than one million people receive aged care.”

Ms Lamb says it is also “good” to see that more people are complaining about care received at home and in the community as this has been an area where people have seldom complained previously.

However, these complaints remain low in number but account for a growing proportion of the Commissioner’s work.


Breaking Down the Numbers: Most Common Aged Care Complaints

Altogether there were 4,713 complaints, of which 3,656 were about residential aged care.

There were also 688 complaints about home care packages and 339 about the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

The most common complaints about residential care were;

  • medication administration and management (559)
  • falls prevention and post fall management (382)
  • personal and oral hygiene (365)

The most common complaints about home care packages were

  • fees and charges (211)
  • lack of consultation and communication (146)
  • communication about fees and charges (79)

For the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, the most common complaints were

  • fees and charges (85)
  • lack of consultation and communication (65)
  • consistent client care and coordination (50)

When it comes to “who” was making the complaints, it was most commonly a family member. Approximately 60% of all complaints came from a family representative, while the second most common source, at 19%, was from the resident/care recipient himself.

12% of complaints came from an anonymous source –

Another 8% came from “other interested persons”, and the last 1% came from “other” which includes external agency, provider, internal or media.

“This year I challenged the industry to talk more about complaints and what they do about them. Complaints are a normal part of providing care and services,” says Lamb.  

“People need to know it’s okay to complain and that when things go wrong, making a complaint can lead to improved care.”

“Greater transparency about complaints will increase consumer confidence.”

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