As we undertake our regulatory activities, we are paying close attention to providers’ responses to the government’s call to prepare for the winter season, which is at our doorstep. By now, you should have informed staff about requirements regarding the winter COVID-19 booster and flu vaccines. You should also have communicated with your residents or care recipients about the evidence-based benefits of vaccination and what steps you’ll be taking to assist them to access these vaccines in a timely manner. Read more about winter preparedness at your service in this edition of the Quality Bulletin.
An updated version of the Industry Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes was recently released by 12 aged care consumer and provider organisations, led by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia. The revised code balances best-practice safety measures in aged care with the rights and mental health of older people. It includes an ‘Essential visitor’ policy which requires that all residents should always have access to at least one visitor. There are 3 classifications of such essential visitors – ‘Partners in care’, ‘Named visitors’ and ‘End of life care’.
Everything that the aged care sector and individual providers have learned since the pandemic started underscores the importance of enabling access to residents by (at least) their essential visitors and partners in care. Providers proactively working with individual residents to identify these contacts (in advance of any COVID-19 exposure or outbreak) is the vital first step. Providers are also expected to ensure that essential visitors and partners in care continue to have access to residents during a period of heightened community transmission or an outbreak at the service, unless a public health order or written public health advice prohibits this.
We’ve released 4 new resources about partnerships in care – 2 for residential aged care providers and 2 for family and friends of those in residential aged care. A partner in care is a person identified by the aged care resident, or their representative, with whom they have a close and continuing relationship, such as a family member or close friend. A partner regularly visits and provides care and companionship to the resident, even in the event of an infectious disease outbreak. Read more about this in the article in this edition of the Quality Bulletin.
Quality aged care requires a partnership
Social engagement and continuity of close relationships can have a profoundly positive impact on the wellbeing of aged care residents, while restrictions on in-person relationships, such as those experienced in the earlier COVID-19 outbreaks (before the vaccine, rapid testing and antiviral treatments), typically have negative health impacts.
The Commission encourages residential aged care providers to establish a Partnerships in Care (PiC) program which allows family and friends of residents to participate in their care. This approach promotes existing relationships of care, even during outbreaks.
PiC program resources for residential aged care providers
Establishing a PiC program ensures that individual residents continue to be supported by someone they choose for care and companionship.
The Commission’s PiC resources are tailored specifically for providers to help you take a person-centred approach to care. They include:
- a guide to help you implement formal arrangements in your service to support safe visitation
- advice on how to tailor the PiC program to the individual needs of your residents
- information that can be used to support partners with understanding infection prevention and control.
PiC program resources for family and friends
Joining a PiC program and becoming a partner in care will help family and friends continue to provide care and companionship to their loved one in residential aged care.
A partner in care can regularly visit the resident and may help with tasks such as dressing, sharing food and stories, and exercise routines.
The Commission’s PiC resources for family and friends aim to:
- increase their skills in infection prevention and control
- help formalise their care arrangements with the aged care provider.
PiC resources for both residential aged care providers (a fact sheet and toolkit) and family and friends of those in residential aged care (a fact sheet and information package) are available on our website.
We encourage all residential providers to consider how you might implement a PiC program, communicate with residents and families about the opportunity for partnerships in care, and share these resources with the families and carers of your residents.
Preparing your aged care service for winter
Now that Australians can travel interstate without restrictions and international travel has resumed to Australia, the upcoming winter season is predicted to bring an increase in respiratory illnesses including COVID-19 and influenza (flu).
As a provider of residential aged care or in-home care, it is your responsibility to be prepared so you can respond quickly to this risk and lessen the likelihood and impacts of any outbreaks.
In particular, residential aged care providers are expected to have completed or significantly progressed arrangements for the administration of the flu and COVID-19 winter dose vaccinations for residents and eligible workers. To reduce the risk of outbreaks, you should not delay these arrangements so you can be sure that you have the right prevention measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of your residents.
The Commission continues to monitor and assess services’ compliance with all their legal requirements, in addition to infection prevention and control arrangements. Instances where staff and recipients of care are exposed to increased harm due to a provider not proactively addressing their requirements are likely to result in regulatory action by the Commission.
The Department of Health has issued practical advice to help you identify what key risk factors you need to consider in your planning. The recommended actions for aged care services when preparing for winter include:
- Review, test and update your outbreak management plan and ensure your staff have the knowledge and skills to activate the plan when needed.
- Have an emergency plan and a business continuity plan in place for all in-home care and community care recipients.
- Document how to manage cases of flu or flu-like illness in care recipients.
- Refresh and reinforce your infection prevention and control practices.
- Assess the vaccination status of all care recipients and staff, obtain necessary consents and offer opportunities to be vaccinated. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises that the COVID-19 and flu vaccine can be administered at the same time.
- Make sure you have enough essential supplies in stock including personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid antigen test kits and antivirals for both COVID-19 and the flu.
- Work with families of care recipients to arrange consent to administer oral antivirals as it is most effective when administered within the first few days after infection.
- Review your workforce management plan so you have options for sourcing replacement staff for all types of roles when needed during an outbreak.
- Document ways to inform staff, residents and families of your strategy for managing winter infections.
- Continue to report COVID-19 outbreaks to the Department of Health. There is no need to report flu infections to the department.
More resources are available from the Department of Health.
For flu vaccination advice, refer to the department’s getting vaccinated against influenza resources.
Incident management system essential element #3 – Record and report the incident
There are 6 essential elements to an effective incident management system (IMS). In this next article in our series, we look at the third element that residential aged care and home care providers must have in their IMS.
IMS essential element #3 – Record and report the incident
Each provider’s system for recording incidents and near misses is likely to be different. This is because an IMS should be tailored to the service size, location, the types of services provided, and the aged care recipients at the service. However, as a provider, you must be able to comprehensively record details about any incident and near miss in your incident management system.
The key information you should capture includes:
- details of the incident, allegation or near miss
- details of the people involved in the incident and whether any psychological or physical impacts were sustained
- the actions you took in response to the incident
- details of the investigation and/or analysis undertaken to identify the cause or source of an incident.
Your recording of incidents serves several purposes. It enables you to:
- review and analyse issues raised by the incidents
- identify and address systemic issues or patterns of abuse
- provide accurate and detailed report incident information to the Commission, if you are required or requested to do so.
Each provider will also likely have different practices for how their workers internally report incidents and near misses. This usually involves completing an incident report form.
Internal reporting will help you understand the next steps you need to take, such as whether further investigation and/or analysis is needed. It will also help you determine if more resources and other actions, such as further notifications to the Commission, are required.
The need to notify/report an incident to one or more entities external to the service depends on the nature of the incident. This may include:
- speaking with consumers and their family or representative as soon as possible
- notifying the Commission if you’re a residential aged care provider and the incident is reportable under the Serious Incident Response Scheme
- reporting deaths from any cause to the coroner and depending on the state or territory you’re in
- reporting to police if there is ongoing danger or, in some states and territories, if there has been a death
- notifying other organisations depending on the circumstances, for example, you may need to notify the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission if an incident involves a National Disability Insurance Scheme participant.
Read our ‘Effective incident management systems: Best practice guidance’ for information about how you can develop and embed an IMS in your service.
NDIS registration renewal for providers supporting NDIS participants
Prior to 1 December 2020, aged care providers did not need to register as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider if they provided care and services to a NDIS participant. On 1 December 2020, residential aged care providers supporting NDIS participants were automatically deemed as a provider with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
Following the 1 December 2020 decision, the NDIS Commission has taken a phased approach to the registration renewal of these providers and has recently been contacting aged care providers regarding the registration renewal process.
NDIS provider registration renewal dates are available on the certificates of registration received from the NDIS Commission. If you’re an aged care provider who supports NDIS participants, you’re encouraged to confirm the registration renewal dates and process directly with the NDIS Commission.
Your registration as an NDIS provider does not change your responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997. NDIS participants in residential aged care continue to be afforded the same rights and protections as other aged care residents.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is aware that some providers are seeking further information or advice on the NDIS registration process. We are unable to respond to any enquiries related to this issue.
You can get more information from the NDIS Commission via its website or by phoning 1800 035 544. Alternately, you may wish to seek more information from your peak body.
Enriching life through care – Board chair and CEO roundtables
As we announced in the March edition of the Quality Bulletin, the Commissioner has invited board chairs and chief executive officers (CEOs) of aged care providers to a series of regional roundtable discussions to explore the sector’s pathway to transformation through the lens of the consumer experience.
The premise underpinning the roundtables is that aged care should be a service that people reach for, trust and value so the experience is enriching for every consumer. The demand for new types of aged care services is increasing and there are changing consumer and community expectations for the safety and quality of services.
The roundtable program offers providers across the country the opportunity to connect with Commissioner Janet Anderson and Assistant Commissioner Lisa Peterson, and your industry peers. We want to hear provider insights regarding delivering new and better consumer-centred care experiences and the key capabilities that shape the experience of care. We will also welcome your ideas on how the Commission can better frame and target information, education and resources to support sector capability uplift.
If you’re a board chair or CEO, please register your interest to attend your preferred online or face-to-face roundtable session in your state or territory via our online registration form.
Speaker requests can now be submitted online
Every year the Commission receives numerous invitations to speak at aged care conferences and events across the country. These meetings and events generally give us a valuable opportunity to engage both with the aged care sector and with the wider public, to discuss aged care issues and provide useful information and education about our functions and work.
We have developed a webform for use by external organisations who wish to invite a Commission representative to participate in a meeting or event. This makes it easier for external organisations as they can now submit a request directly via our Speaker request expression of interest webpage.
The form asks for various details about the event or meeting including logistical information, the purpose of the event, its intended audience, and what information the Commission is requested to cover. Once we receive the request, we’ll consider it and follow up with the organisation.
This webform is the Commission’s preferred way to receive speaker requests. If you have any questions about the form or engagement opportunities, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New and updated Commission resources
- New: What is dignity of risk consumer guide, A3 poster and video
- New: The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services’ Statement of Expectations for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in 2022, and the Commission’s Statement of Intent which outlines our response to the Minister’s expectations.