Quality in aged care has come into question at many Australian facilities, especially in light of extensive media reports of abuse, neglect, poor quality food and poor staffing.

Speaking at the Quality in Aged Care conference in Sydney was Amy Laffan from the Department of Health.

Amy explained that “the most valuable experience you will take away will be the shared insights into driving continuous quality to deliver on consumer expectations because it will become more important than ever to provide us with better quality care, consumer outcomes across their organisations.

Amy is the Assistant Secretary of the Aged Care Quality & Regulatory Reform Branch at the Department of Health.

“We have a good system, better than most in the world. And we have much to be proud of.”

“We know that the system will be under more and more pressure as we go into the future, with changes critical to allow us to plan, manage, respond and deliver.”

Reflecting on the changes in the system, Amy says, “we have come a long way in the last 20 years”

“What we have today is largely reflective of the various reforms undertaken in the mid 1980s and 1990s, in the increasing demands and changing needs of older people.”

“It looked very different, 20-30 years ago. There were 20 ward beds, no regulatory framework, more focus on residential care and no recognition of consumer choice and control.”

Amy says that we are in the middle of a “generational change” – with changing expectation of services and government. “This drives reform and this drives how we respond.”

“As baby boomers age, we see the arrival of consumers who are educated, live longer in retirement, who are more connected and diverse and have higher expectations.”

Today, according to Amy, we have positive attitudes towards ageing, “we are ageing well and we recognise that seniors are connected to the community”.

“Many older people, after a lifetime of making decisions, thinking about aged care and their experience of aged care can be one of ‘losing’ control, and fear that they won’t be looked after properly.”

“They’ll want choice, they’ll want control and they’ll expect value for money, they want quality – and they deserve it.”

The Bad Cases of Aged Care

There have been some undeniable horror stories in aged care, and Amy says that the public are aware of that.

“We know Oakden happened – and it immediately highlighted the failing in the regulator processes to identify the mistreatments of residents in an aged care facility that is regulated by the government.”

The Department’s role at this time is to provide advice the Government, through how they should respond to the recommendation of reviews like the Carnell-Paterson report.

“We are looking at options for making things more transparent for senior Australians, their families and people who need to access the aged care system”

“The more informed you are, the better choices you make”

“Every change and reform we consider is based on evidence, research, best practice and understanding consumer needs and expectations.”

Amy elaborates that this is all a team effort, “it’s important we work hand in hand with the sector to deliver best care.”

“A case like Oakden must not be allowed to happen in the future.”

The Future for Aged Care?

“We will have to think about what choice means when you don’t have choice and how that affects quality”

“That is, how do we care for people who live in rural and remote areas, those who are socially isolated and the homeless?”

“Where the system will be in the next 10, 20, 50 years will be a whole new place. Though we don’t know exactly what that place will look like yet, we have tools to help us guide us in the right direction for where we needs to be.”

“I know that we have had a lot of change and had a lot to respond to quickly. I know there is more change to come, I know it can be challenging, confusing and some exhausting – but it is also exciting.”

“We have a rare opportunity to set the direction for a sector that is a major part of the economy, a major part of the fabric of our society and, most importantly, a sector that is essential to the day to day living of a million older people.

“Try to envisage a system that would be one you would want to engage in when the time comes.”

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