As we enter a historic year for Australia’s aged care sector, Ellis Jones looks at some of the activities, issues and perceptions which will affect providers, consumers and the government. In part two of our Royal Commission series, we look at the critical difference between aged care and previous Commissions.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety got into full swing last week with a preliminary hearing in Adelaide on Friday, 25 January. Australia’s largest aged care providers have made their initial submissions (smaller providers have until the 8, February) and now the preparation beings for the witness hearings taking place from the 8, February.
As we prepare for the public hearings, it is not surprising that many are looking at previous Royal Commissions to gain an understanding of the potential process and implications. There are many applicable learnings, and we will explore these further in coming weeks, but it is also important for Commissioners, government and providers to remember that there are critical differences between aged care and the other sectors that have been subject to past Commissions.
This is not the financial services sector with its unparalleled capacity to raise and deploy funds, eye-watering profits and highly-educated workforce. Apologies to the bankers, but aged care is infinitely more complex and intimate, with the quality of life of aged care workers intrinsically linked to the health and wellbeing of older people with whom they often spend every working moment, or are the most frequent visitor received at home.
One critical difference with other commissions is the nature of the constant risk. People with advanced dementia are unpredictable, can accidentally self-harm, and are sometimes violent to their fellow residents and carers. They can be extremely convincing and convinced. We have worked on a case of one nursing home resident so sure they were visiting a relative, that (well-dressed and prepared for errands) they told a hospitality staff member they had to head home to collect the post – and were shown the exit. A lapse of security, yes, but challenging circumstances in which every detail mattered to the outcome. As always, the staff member suffered the emotional consequences of the issue.
How prepared are Australians to understand the emotional, functional, system and regulatory complexity of aged care – especially when told via the nation’s tabloids and the soundbites of television media?
No Australian wants to know about old age. We avoid any discussion about it until it happens to us, or our family members. Even then, we pay others to deal with the problem. And we need to; none of us is prepared to deal with the many complex issues that arise from a life lived much longer than ever before. As a society, we still are learning as we go.
This is not a teleconsultant signing off on a sub-prime loan to achieve a bonus. We cannot treat it as such.
Ellis Jones has developed a model to support the sector to proactively address and respond to the Royal Commission. Beyond the initial submissions, our approach focuses on engaging older Australians and their families into the future. And responding tactical over time to strengthen, not weaken, the sector’s resilience and integrity. Download the model here.