An analysis of two years’ data gleaned from consumer experience reports reveals that even though the majority of aged care residents are satisfied with their experience of residential aged care, larger, privately run facilities recorded lower rates of satisfaction overall, and attention from staff and food rated relatively poorly.

The findings represent the voices of residents in aged care facilities all across the country, and should provide useful guidance for future policy that puts the needs and wants of residents at the centre.

The analysis was commissioned by The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which engaged the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to conduct an independent review of data from the consumer reports.

Consumer experience reports are compiled following quality assessments from data gathered during interviews with residents. They are intended to be a gauge of how residents are feeling and their satisfaction with the services they are receiving. Generally 10 per cent of residents are interviewed during an assessment.

The data for the report was gathered over two years, between 2017-18 and 2018-19. Over the period, nearly 31,500 residents were interviewed in 2,070 aged care facilities. As well as customer satisfaction, the CER results were analysed by type of organisation, service size, remoteness and resident population characteristics. 

A report on the analysis was released on Monday.

The results

The results reveal that residents are generally satisfied with their experience of residential aged care, but they also point to some of the protracted problems in aged care that many in the industry will already be aware of.

  • It’s perhaps not surprising that one of the weakest results came in response to the question ‘If I am feeling a bit sad or worried there are staff here I can talk to.’ This question received the lowest positive response at 80 per cent.
  • The issue of food, so often a contentious issue in aged care, also received a low response, with only 85 per cent responding positively.
  • Smaller residential aged care facilities had a greater proportion of residents responding positively. Larger facilities had a “consistently lower” proportion of positive responses.

“The size of a RACS, in terms of resident numbers, had the most obvious effect of all three variables on the proportions of positive responses, with the largest services having consistently lower proportions of positive responses than the smaller services,” the report states.

  • Services with higher a proportion of residents born in English-speaking countries had a higher likelihood of positive responses, which highlights the importance of cultural programs in residential aged care.
  • Those living in private aged care facilities were less likely to report positive responses than not-for-profit or state-owned operations. 

For the question, ‘If I’m feeling a bit sad or worried, there are staff here who I can talk to’, the response for not-for-profit services was 81 per cent, compared to only 77 per cent for private facilities.

Similarly, the question, ‘This place is well run’, for not-for-profits received a positive response of 95 per cent, compared to 90 per cent for private facilities.

  • The proportion of positive responses generally did not differ between the sexes.
  • Those with restricted mobility, overall, recorded lower rates of satisfaction.

Results provide guidance for reform

The Commission’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, said the report provides an important insight into how the sector is operating, as seen through the eyes of the residents. 

The report “provides a sector-wide view of the lived experience of people in residential aged care, providing us with a better understanding of aged care services,” she said.

AIHW Chief Executive Officer, Barry Sandison, said the report is an example of new data sources that have only recently become available can provide important guidance for the future.

Data on the new residential aged care quality indicators was also released for the July-September quarter, the first release of this data since its reporting become mandatory on 1 July 2019. 

“This is another example of the efforts to use data to better understand aged care,” Mr Sandison said.

Findings put residents’ needs on the agenda

The weak points in the aged care sector revealed in the consumer experience reports are not new to those who follow the sector, but the results will hopefully add weight to arguments for reform that are in line with the desires and wishes of the very people who should be at the heart of everything aged care providers do – the residents themselves.


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