With the avalanche of changes consuming the aged care industry lately, the very fundamental issue of how we refer to older people receiving care has become confused.

The incoming quality standards refer to older Australians receiving care as ‘consumers’ or ‘care recipients’.

Yet, it’s also commonplace for those living in aged care facilities to be called ‘residents’.

People receiving care at home are referred to as ‘clients’.

All these different labels can lead to confusion, not only for older people themselves, but also for aged care providers, families, and anyone else involved in the care of older people.

How can we be sure we are correctly understanding the new Single Set of Quality Standards when these terms are used, and how can we communicate clearly without creating confusion?

This issue was raised at the recent Criterion Quality in Aged Care conference held in Sydney last week, and since then, HelloCare has been asked by a number of aged care operators about the correct terminology.

“Very aware of that confusion”

A member of the audience asked Janet Anderson, the new head of the Quality and Safety Commission, what words we should use to describe older people receiving care.

“We are a bit confused what are the real names,” the woman remarked.

Ms Anderson said, “I think that’s a very fair question. A number of us are very aware of that confusion.”

“I think we need to work a little harder and ensuring that when we’re using a particular term we also use similes for those other terms so people who are reading it or hearing it do understand,” Ms Anderson said.

A spokesperson from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission told HelloCare the terms used in official documents are ‘consumer’ and ‘aged care recipient’.

“The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission uses the terms ‘consumer’ and ‘aged care recipient’ to describe people receiving Commonwealth funded aged care services in residential and home care settings within official correspondence and policy documents,” the spokesperson said.

“This terminology is consistent with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Act 2018, and applies to all people receiving Commonwealth funded aged care services.”

It’s still okay to use the word ‘resident’

At the conference, Ms Anderson said, “We tend not to use ‘recipient’ because it particularises it to a care setting, whereas when you use consumer or client or recipient, it’s blind to the nature of the provider.”

But the spokesperson for the Commission said it “does not see any issue with consumers being referred to as ‘residents’ in aged care residential services, and may also use this term informally when visiting a service.”

At the end of the day, what matters most is that the people we are talking about are happy with the name they are given. If they want to be called ‘residents’, shouldn’t they?


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