Transitioning a loved one into aged care can be a challenging time for elders and for the family. As parents and grandparents age, they may need more assistance and care. And for many people it can be hard to relinquish some of the caring role to anyone else other than family.

So when an elderly loved one moves into aged care, families often look for and want to be reassured that the person they care for dearly will be well cared.  There is a significant amount of trust and understanding placed on the aged care facility from families, as they hope they will do their best to keep their loved one safe and well cared for.

However, what happens when the system fails to keep our elderly safe? These stories are often publicised in the media, highlighting substandard care, elder abuse and or poor management practices often leading to sanctions.  Each time this happens – how does the industry react? What do we learn? And most importantly how do change our practices to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

Transparency and accountability is a starting point for any operator to up hold. Without this it builds a culture of fear and hesitation to report problems within. Without this, aged care workers will simply be too afraid to speak up and report anything.

At the end of the day no service is perfect – all it takes is a select few of under performing staff, or a direction from a manager that is not in the best interest of residents, to see a fundamentally good operator drop its standards.

As seen with recent number of aged care facilities that have been accused of putting their residents at ‘severe risk’.

Last week, two New South Wales nursing homes were slapped with sanctions, while four others have non-compliance notices.

The Garrawarra Centre in Waterfall and Hillside at Figtree in Wollongong both receive funding from the government’s. However, because of the sanctions, imposed on them by the Department of Health, both facilities are now ineligible for federal funding for new residents for six months.

So what went wrong for them to receive these sanctions?

It’s been reported that there may have concerns at The Garrawarra Centre over behaviour management which led to residents feeling unsafe because of fears of assaults by other residents.

Hillside at Figtree, who had received a noncompliance notice earlier this year, failed 40 per cent of its benchmarks – which included care of residents, pain management, medication, nutrition and hydration, skin care, continence and behavioural management, privacy and dignity.

The four that received non-compliance notices were

  • Hakea Grove in Hamlyn Terrace in regards to medication management
  • NSW Health’s Leeton Hospital for clinical care
  • Fairview Hostel in Moree on behavioural management
  • Uralba Retirement Village in Carcoar relating to its management of deposits, bonds and entry contributions.

In May, a nursing home in South Australia was also handed down a serious of penalties in regards to resident safety.

Gawler Grande Views home north of Adelaide was found to have serious problems with their personal care, clinical care, medication management and skin care.

The Health Department has cut public funding to the home for any new residents for the next three months, as well as appointing a clinical adviser and an administration adviser for six months.

The facility has also been forced to provide urgent training for its staff, managers and key personnel, all at its own cost.

Issues of care and safety have become too frequent in aged care, and it has been suggested that this is only the “tip of the iceberg”.

So if there is indeed a wider issue, where does the industry begin to fix it? 

There is much to be improved, and simply meeting the minimum standard hurdles set by accreditation requirements will never create the required changes.

The Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt opened submissions to the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes which closes today, 24th July. 

The review will primarily examine the Commonwealth Government’s accreditation, monitoring, review, investigation, complaints and compliance processes. Let’s hope a more robust system will come from this review.

When a person is frail and vulnerable, they should not have to worry about the care they receive. No one should ever fear for their safety.

The highest quality of care is what older Australians deserve.  

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