The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has released a final report which laid out several recommendations to restructure Australia’s aged care system.

Among the 148 recommendations, the report highlighted Australia’s need for a new Aged Care Act. This report was conducted over 28 months, which included 23 public hearings involving more than 10,500 submissions that were reviewed and 641 witnesses showing evidence of the system’s crisis.

Responses to the hearings and interviews exposed the aged care system’s biggest challenges, such as a lack of transparency in funding, enduring a time-consuming waiting list, and quality of services like under-resourced and overworked providers. The report also brought out primary and acute care issues, staffing issue and the system’s lack of coordination and integration with the medical care sector.

If the Australian government accepts the significant recommendations, we are optimistic that care providers will be given greater funding, support and a better overall opportunity to provide the quality of care they endeavor to.

Here are our key takeaways from the Commission’s report.

At the core of the issues is funding

At the core of nearly all of the issues highlighted in the Royal Commission report is funding.

Aged Care services, workers and providers endeavor to provide high quality care and support to all of their clients, whether in residential homes or in their own home. The intent for positive experiences, personalised care and a sense of compassion is there. However, without an acceptable amount of funding, the execution is going to miss the mark.

As highlighted in the report, many of the issues in the industry are due to a lack of funding, overworked and underpaid staff, lack of resources and lack of technological innovation to enhance efficiency. The fact is, with an ageing population, more money is going to be needed to provide the level of care our elderly Australians deserve.

The aged care system needs better governance 

Imperfection in governance is expected, but effective systems, review methods and regulations still should be in place.

Stronger governance comes with stricter regulations in the aged care system, setting a higher standard of support to be provided from the government which will lead to a high standard of care to be upheld by providers. We need leaders who are continuously open to improving services in the industry, such as yearly reviews and encouraging innovation that can further enhance the system and address issues such as expanding home care services to remote locations.

A large part of the governance issue, is that fact that the government have not had someone to answer to for a long time. The industry has been searching for a big boost of support and funding for years and this report has finally exposed the flawed system to our current leaders. In order for aged care providers to be able to do their job and provide high quality care, the support needs to come from the top, and needs to be regulated by an industry watchdog.

Australia needs to build a genuine peoplecentric aged care

The transition for older Australians from their homes into residential aged care can be challenging for both them and their families. From researching the suitable accommodations for their loved ones, to applying for funding and assessing their daily needs, there is a lot to think about. However a one size fits all solution is not always the right one.

More and more elderly Australians are choosing to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. And with an aging population, sophisticated and effective Home Care solutions are not only good for the government and the economy, but also for the client.

Several accounts during the hearings have opened a lot of issues and dissatisfaction regarding the certain issues within the aged care sector: limited information of local services and support for transitioning into residential care, long waiting lists for funding or home care packages (up to 34 months!) making residential care sometimes an unwanted necessity, severe mental health and social isolation issues and more.

“We have heard countless stories about how much people grieve for all they have lost when they arrive in residential care. They become ‘just a resident’, just another body to be washed, fed and mobilised, their value defined by the amount of funding they bring with them. They become infantilised, lose autonomy, and are prevented from making decisions or doing physical things that were routine when they lived at home, on the grounds that they ‘could hurt themselves.” – Interim Report, Royal Commission. 

The released report also tackled the unattended aged care needs in regional and rural areas with less access to care. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are often not given proper care. These further showed the weak regulation in the systems placed.

As part of its recommendations, the final report highlighted Australia’s need for a new Aged Care Act to strengthen reform. The new Act should emphasise older people’s rights, especially regarding their retirement options, including their entitlement to personal care and support. This Act should also instill robust regulation and full transparency for all providers.

The recommendations also addressed the extremely long wait times for home care packages. According to reports, many retirees have waited for about seven months, extending to about 34 months, depending on the level of needs.

These recommendations would be significant for the sector to move away from the current system and bring the aged care system similar to Medicare. Existing aged care programs, such as home-care packages and residential care, will be replaced by a single program where older Australian’s will be individually assessed and given the care that caters to their needs and preferences. This is a key move, towards a more people-centric system.

Restructuring the system is a massive step for the industry, that will bring ease and comfort for retirees and their families in choosing the best care options for their loved ones.

Improving workforce conditions 

The final report also made several important recommendations to improve care providers’ capability and their working conditions. The aged care industry is already one of Australia’s largest service industries.

Care providers delivered services to around 1.3 million people in 2018 when there were roughly around half a million workers only, or about 2.5% of the Australian workforce is employed by the aged care sector. Because of the small number of workers, retirees get only an average of 8 hours and 45 minutes of care in a week, which is not sufficient, especially for people needing the highest level of care in their homes.

According to the Royal Commission’s report, at least 1 in 3 people accessing residential aged care and home care services have experienced substandard care, often due to overworked providers. Data shows that 50% of the aged care facilities have inadequate staffing levels. This resulted in a lack of time in supporting the elderly with their daily needs and activities.

The report calls for better wages and improving the care worker standards, requiring them to have a minimum of Certificate III training. Care facilities also need to ensure that their organisation meets the minimum staff requirements and service time needed for their residents. The facilities will be required to strictly implement reporting of daily staffing hours, specifying necessary details to maintain balanced working conditions for the care workers and reviewing the service given to the residents.

Utilising Technology to improve the industry

The Royal Commission also shared their technology-based recommendations to improve care. One of the recommendations in the report included investing in IT to keep our ageing populations safer. It also suggests wider availability of assistive technologies to improve the residents’ independence and require all care providers to adopt a digital care system that would connect with the My Health Record system.

Along with innovative technological recommendations, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is also pushing to create the National Aged Care Data Asset. This would “provide a better understanding of the life experiences, pathways and outcomes of people receiving aged care and the operation and performance of the aged care system,” according to the summary of the Commission’s report.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has acknowledged that current aged care data is limited and needs regulations to improve data management. These recommendations should be integrated to provide reliable, accessible, and comprehensive data for the sector’s safety and quality.

Technology as a way to improve the industry is attainable if the government goes ahead with these recommendations, but care providers must also take a step forward in using technology to aid their teams and always have their residents in mind. Utilising technology to improve care is a great opportunity, especially for retirees who are often left behind.

And as part of the aged care sector, CareVision is one with the government and the care providers in building better technology solutions to improve the quality of care given to the elderly in our country. With a human-centric mindset, we are always aiming to provide our users with the best experience.