Times Changing in Aged Care

An Aged Care Facility

The times are certainly a-changing when it comes to aged care accommodation. There were so many horror stories in the media in the past about aged care facilities that the industry has undergone a major shake-up. The government stepped in to close down some facilities and have improved the standards for accreditation for aged care accommodation to ensure our elderly are properly cared for.  I love to assist those looking for aged care accommodation as I seek and find the most suitable facilities for my clients.

These days there are more and more facilities being built and they are very different from those of the past, with hotel standard suites, cafes, private dining rooms and decent wifi to ensure residents can stay connected to their families. Facilities are also beginning to offer expanded life experiences to offset the risks of an institutionalised environment.

One new facility nestled in the foothills of the Gold Coast Hinterland, Carinity Cedarbrook, overlooks a farm with horses and cattle. Carinity’s thirty one hectare site is being used by nearby Southport Boy’s School for science and agricultural classes.The plan is that residents will interact with the students and animals and over time activities will increase to include beekeeping and community gardening. Other facilities offer inter-generational playgroups on a regular basis, usually fortnightly or monthly.

Parents bring their babes and young toddlers along to interact with the residents, taking part in musical, dance, art and story telling together.The children appreciate the interaction with the residents, especially those who don’t have regular access to their own grandparents.The residents in turn are often rejuvenated by the interaction with the very young and the music and activities often bring back fond memories. Staff report that, in particular, those living with dementia are often more engaged and energised by these experiences.

For older adults, programs reduce isolation and create a sense of purpose, including for those living with dementia. And for children the benefits include psychological and social development. Professor Anneke Fitzgerald of Griffith University is doing a feasibility study into demand for inter-generational playgroups in aged care facilities with a possible outcome that it will become government policy.

 

 

Improving the Experience of LGBTI People in Aged Care

It is encouraging to see the government moving toward improved aged care services for Australian Seniors. As the government engages with the aged care sector on the development of longer-term reform, they are already taking steps to help improve the experience of elderly LGBTI people entering aged care facilities.

The department’s website MyAgedCare now has a range of resources for providers to help them better accommodate the needs of LGBTI people.  They incude:

  • A 24 minute educational video on LGBTI inclusiveness in aged care
  • A consumer factsheet providing an overview of aged care services available and how to access them, specifically for the LGBTI community
  • A brochure with ‘10 questions to ask about LGBTI needs in residential aged care’.

These resources can be downloaded from the department’s website.

I have written in previous blogs about the difficulties faced by LGBTI people entering aged care facilities. Some sad stories reflect on the lack of understanding of their needs, such as facilities that would not recognize a person’s chosen gender rather than that shown on their birth certificate. Imagine being born male, then bravely living your life as a woman only to be made to live as a man and use male facilities in your old age upon entering aged care accommodation. As an advocate for the elderly, in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I have met people who have had to face these difficulties.

I therefore embrace the stance taken by the government to improve the experience of LGBTI people entering an aged care facility.  I sincerely hope that Australian aged care facilities will continue to improve their understanding and so provide the right support and appropriate accommodation to elderly residents within this group.

Aged Care Workforce Taskforce and Technology Support Improvements in Aged Care

Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care

The government is taking the care of elderly Australians seriously with the development of the Aged Care Workplace Taskforce, announced on November 1st. It is tasked with developing a wide-ranging workforce strategy, focused on supporting safe, quality aged care for senior Australians.

“Everything is on the table but there are only two things that matter, safety and quality,” Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM, said. Despite reservations from the Australian Nurses & Midwives Federation that frontline professionals had been excluded from the Taskforce, the Minister assured that the Taskforce would consult widely, reaching out to senior Australians and their families, consumer organisations, informal carers, aged care workers and volunteers as well as unions, health professionals, universities and the health, education, employment and disability sectors.

“With Australia’s current aged care staffing needs predicted to grow from around 360,000 currently to almost one million by 2050, workforce issues are vital to the quality ongoing care of older Australians.” he added. New thinking and a strong pathway for professional careers in aged care are outcomes the Minister is keen to see as a result of the Taskforce findings and recommendations.

Meantime a state-of-the-art residential aged care facility in Austral, Western Sydney is leading the way in the use of technology to support residents’ safety and wellbeing.

Opening the John Edmondson VC Gardens centre recently, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM said the innovations would help empower residents and staff.

“Technology will never replace the dedication and service of trusted care and health professionals but it can support them to provide even better and more efficient care,” Minister Wyatt said at the opening, encouraging other aged care facilities to consider using similar innovations.

The new centre, operated by RSL LifeCare, includes:

    • Bedroom laser beam, floor sensor and trip light technology to alert staff
    • Sensors that monitor and report on residents’ locations
    • A smart medication management system to maximise medication safety
    • Access to health specialists through video conferencing
    • A virtual reality social program providing animal therapy through a friendly robotic pet called Seals

My observations of the Aged Care facilities, as I visit and recommend suitable accommodation to my clients, is that many of them have great programs, comfortable and even upmarket accommodation, caring staff and a safe environment but there is a wide range of standards between different facilities.  I, therefore, support any improvements to the care of our elderly citizens, whether through government legislation and guidelines or through innovative initiatives by the facilities themselves.

 

Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Conference in Melbourne

The 17th Alzheimer’s Australia Biennial National Dementia Conference is being held in Melbourne right now from 17th to 20th October. The title of the Conference is “ Be The Change” – the conference aims to inspire delegates to explore more innovative and creative ways to improve the quality of life and support of people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia. Being very involved in the aged care sector, as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I look forward to the ongoing changes and improvements as a result of this conference.

I was very impressed by the great line up of Keynote Speakers that include:

 Dr. Susan Koch, who is currently involved in a project to develop an Australian Community of Practice in Research in Dementia (ACcORD) to improve health outcomes for people with dementia and their carers; Professor Sam Gandy, an international expert in the metabolism of the sticky substance called amyloid that clogs the brain in people living with Alzheimer’s disease; Naomi Feil, developed the now world renowned Validation method and has written two books and numerous articles on the method; Scientia Prof Henry Brodaty AO, one of the world’s leading researchers in dementia, a clinician, policy advisor and a strong advocate for people living with dementia and their carers and Ita Buttrose, National Ambassador of Alzheimer’s Australia, having served as National President from 2011-14, and a former Australian of the Year (2013), she has had a long interest in health and ageing.

 

Dr. Piers Dawes from the University of Manchester is giving the Libby Harrick’s Memorial Oration. Dr. Dawes oration explores the relationship between hearing impairment and cognition, looking at the implications for hearing loss as a biomarker for cognitive well-being and also as a causal contributor to cognitive decline and poor quality of life in older age.

At the Conference research, being jointly undertaken by the University of Melbourne, Dementia Australia and Assistance Dogs Australia, on the affect of assistance dogs on people with early onset dementia was discussed. The research so far has shown that assistance dogs help to relieve loneliness, anxiety and depression for their owners with early onset dementia and gives them the experience of responsible dog ownership. Another bonus is the help they give to carers and family by providing the extra support. This research continues until next year.  I look forward to seeing the final research findings which may be of help to some of my clients who are seeking suitable aged care accommodation.

Greater Transparency About Aged Care Facilities Leads to Consumer Empowerment

It seems that aged care provision is at a cross roads. An article in a series on aged care published in the Sydney Morning Herald in September looked at deregulation. According to the article National President of Dementia Australia, Graeme Samuel says he is “very much in favour” of deregulating the aged care system. He believes that only consumer empowerment will improve it. He says that before this can be achieved the government’s accreditation agency must make some changes, such as introducing more rigorous standards in their accreditation system and the government should allow the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to have the power to publish the names of aged care facilities that have complaints upheld against them. Drawing from his experience as the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission he stated “It’s so obvious. When you start doing that, the consumers are empowered and they’re only ever empowered by transparency and accountability, which was the fundamental mantra of what we did at ACCC.”

Another of Mr. Samuel’s concerns was the lack of hard information to allow elderly people to make sound choices when they select an aged care facility. “People are bombarded with marketing information, whether it’s accurate or not. It’s all huff and puff.”  He claims that selections are made based on this marketing and once they are in the facility and find out it’s not suitable they can’t change easily. Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt acknowledges the problem, saying “I accept that with consumer-directed care what you have to make available is the information relevant to each facility … we should be transparent … and I acknowledge that we don’t do that with aged care.”

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I am in a position to have access to a lot more information about aged care facilities than most consumers are able to know.  That is the reason I am able to help people to find a facility that suits their particular needs, the depth of knowledge I have of each facility and also the ability to properly assess their needs and wants for their future home.  However, I am in agreement with Mr. Samuel that there needs to be much greater transparency and accountability within this sector to enable elderly people to make a sound selection.  I know, perhaps better than most, how important it is for someone going into an aged care home to get it right. After all, this is their home for the rest of their lives.

The Picture Of Aged Care In Australia

Jillian Slade with a happy client.

It is fascinating to look at the statistical information gathered about aged care services in Australia. 249,000 (equates to almost a quarter of a million!) people were using these services on 30 June 2016. As I regularly visit aged care facilities on inspections for my clients to find the most suitable facility for their particular needs, many of these statistics are seen as realities to my eyes.

For example, two out three people in aged care are women; ofcourse in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I see this myself. Apparently the reason they outnumber men in aged care services is because on average women live longer and have higher care needs at these older ages. One of the sadder statistics is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in residential care are on average younger than non-Indigenous people. The reason for this may be because of their more complex health needs and shorter life expectancies. Interestingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people only account for 1% of all people in permanent residential aged care and make up 4% of people in home care.

32% of people who are in aged care services were born overseas. This is in direct correlation with migration statistics, with 36% of people aged 65 years and over in Australia having been born overseas. This stat gives clear evidence as to the need for more culturally appropriate services in aged care for this group.

Statistics on respite care in residential care facilities reflect how important these facilities are for respite in remote regions.  Major cities only recorded 2.6% of the people in residential care facilities being there for respite. There was an outward radiating statistic for this group the more remote the facility was, with inner regional being 3.1%, outer regional being 3.6% and remote and very remote being 4.6%.  One assumes this is because there are not many other respite facilities available in these regions.

 

 

 

Government Stats on Aged Care Provision

Statistics now available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paint an interesting picture about aged care services. Statistics on aged care for 2016 indicate that the number of aged care places is increasing, with 1.4 times as many places over the last ten years from 2006 to 2016. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant these stats simply prove what I have already witnessed, the number of elderly people needing aged care is noticeably increasing.

Occupancy rates tell us how close to full capacity the care system is, so it was interesting to note that residential care had the highest occupancy rate for 2015/16 financial year at 92% . Transition care at 88% was next, followed by home care at 83%. Occupancy rates are calculated by adding together the total number of days that all people spent in care during the year, then dividing that number by the total number of places that were available. The stats around occupancy rates for residential aged care is concerning but information that the highest number of builds in the building and construction industry recently has been for aged care residential facilities does give some comfort.

65% of aged care services were run by not-for-profit organisations in 2016. A trend emerged that most of the privately-owned aged care services were in cities whilst in remote areas services were predominantly government run.

Although aged care services can be delivered by any of the following:

  • government organisations,
  • not-for-profit organisations
  • private companies

the Australian Government contributes towards the costs of care for most aged care places. Around 95% of government spending in aged care comes from the Australian Government, with state and territory governments providing 5%.

So, what are the figures?

The governments spent approximately $17 billion on aged care in 2015/16.

69% of this figure was spent on residential aged care.

Expenditure on residential care was 2.7 times that spent on home care and support.

The break up was – $11.5billion on residential care, $4.3 billion on home care and support.

The government recognises that aged care provision is a growing area with an ageing population. In my role wthin the industry, helping people find suitable aged care accommodation, I hope that the required quality and quantity of residential aged care will be provided well into the future.