Australians’ Aged Care Expectations Not Met, Transparency Needed

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Royal Commission survey finds aged care falls short of community expectations
Image: Manny Becerra on Unsplash

A new research paper by Flinders University shows that aged care falls far short of the Australian public’s expectations.

Research Paper 20, Australia’s aged care system: the quality of care experience and community expectations, was published today by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It will inform the Royal Commissioners ahead of their Final Report due on February 26.

The research compares older people’s experience of aged care with the expectations of the Australian public, using data from three national surveys conducted for the Royal Commission during 2020.

“It could, and indeed should, be conducted routinely along with quality of life assessments to demonstrate public accountability and transparency.”

Professor Julie Ratcliffe

A Need for Transparency

Co-author Professor Julie Ratcliffe says the report is an example of how to monitor whether aged care is living up to expectations. She said the data of future reports should be made publicly available to promote accountability.

‘We have quantified the gap in unmet needs for older people receiving aged care services and what the general public feels about that unmet need,” Professor Ratcliffe said.

“Most people agree that there is a quality of care gap that needs to be addressed to meet general public expectations for the standards of care that Australia’s aged care system should provide in the future.

“The report findings will support the Royal Commission’s final report by demonstrating that this type of quality assessment exercise is possible.

“It could, and indeed should, be conducted routinely along with quality of life assessments to demonstrate public accountability and transparency, by tracking the quality of aged care received by older Australians (from their own perspective) and how that equates with the expectations of the general public about what the system should be delivering. And making that type of data publicly available.”

Unmet Needs: The Findings

The report notes that the results of two national surveys of aged care recipients were “alarming”, with only 24 per cent of people in residential care and 20 per cent of people in home care reporting that their care needs were always met across all quality of care criteria. The share of care recipients who feel their needs are at least ‘mostly’ met across all key aspects of care was just 58% for residential care and 50% for home care.

These two surveys collected responses from over 1,000 older people receiving residential or home care, based on their experiences of the following:

  • I am treated with respect and dignity
  • I am supported to make my own decisions about the care and services I receive
  • I receive care and support from aged care staff who have the appropriate skills and training
  • I receive services and support for daily living that are important for my health and wellbeing
  • I am supported to maintain my social relationships and connections with the community
  • I know how to lodge a complaint
  • I am comfortable lodging complaints
  • I am confident that appropriate action will be taken when I lodge a complaint

Another survey of more than 10,000 people investigated what quality of care in aged care means to the Australian general public, and how important it is for that quality to be achieved. Using the same standards listed above, the survey found most Australian adults view aged care as a vital social service, with all key aspects of care considered important or very important by the vast majority.

The majority of taxpaying respondents said they would be willing to pay more to support aged care. These taxpayers were, on average, willing to pay up to an additional 3.1% income tax per year to ensure all Australians have access to high quality aged care.

This and other Royal Commission research papers can be found on its publications page.

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