December is always a good time to reflect back on the year and what we have achieved together. There’s no doubt that reforms introduced in 2023 with the aim of improving aged care services have had significant implications for many providers and flow-on benefits for older Australians.
Noteworthy changes have included the introduction of 24/7 registered nurse cover and care minutes requirements in residential services; and the commencement earlier this month of new provider governance responsibilities including governing body requirements. December 2023 also marks a full year since the Code of Conduct for Aged Care and the Serious Incident Response Scheme reporting obligations for home services came into effect.
Next year is set to be another big year for reforms in our sector with the coming new Aged Care Act, strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards and the new regulatory model. We will continue to share information and support you to adapt to these changes through 2024 and beyond. This support will include publication of a range of detailed guidance materials and convening our second National Aged Care Provider Conference in April 2024. The conference, to be held on 23 and 24 April in Adelaide, will focus on the legislative reforms and what they will mean in practice. Registrations (which are free) are growing quickly so if you’re keen to attend, I recommend you register as soon as possible so as not to miss out on a place.
Given the time of year, I would also like to draw your attention to our information on caring for older people in high-risk weather and extreme heat. In recent weeks we have put out both a letter to providers and a clinical alert designed to help you prepare and plan for these weather events and ensure the safety and wellbeing of those to whom you provide care.
I wish you a safe and happy festive season. I look forward to our continuing work together next year to keep improving Australia’s aged care sector.
Aged care reforms update
The Department of Health and Aged Care (the department) is developing a new Aged Care Act that will put the rights of older people at the centre of our aged care system.
The new Act will follow the journey of older people in the system and prioritise their needs. It will clearly set out the responsibilities of aged care providers and protect the rights of older people to safe, quality care.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found that the current Aged Care Act is no longer fit for purpose.
The new Act will:
- create a simple, single-entry point to make access to the aged care system for older people easier
- include a fair, culturally safe single assessment process
- include rules on supported decision-making to ensure older people have choice and control
- provide additional protections for whistleblowers to allow reporting without fear of reprisal
- introduce a new approach to regulating aged care providers to ensure delivery of safe, quality aged care services
- strengthen the powers of the regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, to manage risk, ensure integrity and support aged care.
The draft of the new Act (called the exposure draft) is now available for public consultation.
Anyone can contribute to the consultation, including older people, their families and carers, aged care providers and workers, researchers, experts and anyone interested in Australia’s aged care system.
Your feedback will help to shape the new Act before it is introduced in Parliament in 2024.
Consultation will close on Friday 16 February 2024.
You can contribute to consultation on the new Act by:
- attending a workshop and talking to the department directly about what is important to you
- completing a survey online or calling 1800 318 209 to have your say
- emailing AgedCareLegislativeReform@health.gov.au.
Register for a workshop or access the online survey at: www.health.gov.au/aged-care-act-consultation.
If you need assistance to fill out the survey or contribute to consultation, you can use:
We are committed to making sure that older people receiving aged care are at the centre of our planning and decision making. To help with this, last year we established a Consumers and Families panel. The panel has over 300 members who:
- receive aged care services, or
- are considering accessing aged care services, and/or
- support someone who receives aged care services.
Across 2023, we’ve engaged with panel members through surveys, webinars and smaller more targeted consultations. We’ve talked with them about a range of topics including:
- our complaints resources
- information on refundable accommodation deposits
- our website redevelopment
- the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards
- understanding how medicines are used in residential care.
Recently we asked panel members to reflect on their experience. They told us that panel membership has been a good way for them to learn more about the role of the Commission. They also want us to get better at sharing what we’ve done with panel member feedback.
If you or someone you know fits into one of the three categories listed above and would like to join our panel, please register.
You can find out more about the panel as well as the other stakeholder engagement we offer at our Consultation and Engagement hub.
We recently published a fact sheet for workers explaining how the Commission works with and supports aged care workers. It has guidance and information on:
- how to file a complaint
- what happens if a complaint is made about a worker
- worker rights and responsibilities
- what the Commission does if there is a complaint about a worker.
This resource gives workers access to the most up to date information necessary to carry out their duties.
Everyone working in the aged care sector shares the responsibility to meet the care needs of older Australians and support their quality of life.
Encouraging staff to read this resource helps build their understanding about their responsibilities as an aged care worker and their awareness of the support available to them.
The second episode of our Up to Standard video series has been released.
Lisa Peterson PSM, Assistant Commissioner, Sector Capability and Regulatory Strategy gives an update and answers the most common questions about the Commission’s Strengthened Standards Pilot Project.
Find out what the Pilot Project involved, how we will use the findings and what the aged care sector can expect from us once it is completed.
You can read more information and updates on our website. If you have any other questions or feedback about the strengthened Standards, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and help us to make sure that the sector is prepared.
The Good Spirit Good Life (GSGL) assessment package is a resource that supports providers to deliver culturally safe aged care for First Nations peoples by identifying areas of need and providing practical strategies. The University of Western Australia developed and validated the resource with First Nations People aged 45 years and over, and Aboriginal community controlled organisations and aged care service partners.
The GSGL package includes a validated quality of life assessment tool, a carer’s version of the tool, framework, training guide and recommendations informed by Aboriginal Elders.
The assessment tool measures quality of life using 12 interconnected markers of what is most important to older First Nations people to have a good life. These include family and friends, connection to Country, community, culture, health, respect, their role as an Elder, support services, safety and security, spirituality and basic needs being met. Culturally informed care can help to strengthen an older person’s connection using these markers, improving quality of life.
You can find the Good Spirit Good Life toolkit on the University of Western Australia website.
The 2019–20 Australian bushfires caused extensive damage and had a lasting impact on our country. The fires destroyed homes, displaced wildlife and tragically, killed 34 people. The disaster zone was widespread across Australia.
Impacts on the aged care sector included evacuations, with number of people receiving aged care not being able to return to their homes or residences in areas across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
IRT Aged Care Homes case study
IRT Aged Care Homes was one of many aged care providers affected. IRT runs 7 aged care homes in the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla regions of New South Wales. They also run 7 retirement villages and provide home care services to around 1,000 people.
In this new case study, Nia Briguglio, Executive General Manager of IRT Aged Care Centres explains:
- how their residents were affected
- their emergency management approach
- some lessons that changed the way they will manage bushfire emergencies in the future.
IRT services in New South Wales were affected by:
- road closures
- power outages
- supply shortages
- interruptions to communications
All 7 of their aged care homes were without power at different times and one home and retirement village had to be evacuated. IRT found that their emergency management plans and Critical Incident Management team supported both staff and residents quite effectively through the emergency. However, there were some things that didn’t go to plan. The lessons they’ve learned from this have allowed them to be better prepared for any future emergencies. This includes:
- satellite phones in each aged care home
- evacuation bags ready to go for each resident
- a 72-hour supply of dry food at all times.
You can read more in this case study.
The Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme (ACVVS) supports volunteers to regularly visit older people in-person to give friendship and companionship. Visits are available to anyone receiving government subsidised aged care services in an aged care home or through a Home Care Package.
Regular visits from volunteers can help improve the quality of life of older people and give them a stronger sense of connection and belonging.
Becoming an aged care volunteer visitor can be a rewarding and life-changing experience. You will make friends, share stories and help someone who might be feeling isolated or lonely.
Volunteers usually visit for an hour once a fortnight at a time that suits both the volunteer and the older person.
During a visit, a volunteer and older person can do anything they both feel like doing such as:
- enjoy a chat over a cup of tea
- take a walk
- work on a joint hobby together.
The Department of Health and Aged Care works with around 140 community organisations to recruit and support volunteers to visit older people.
Older people can be referred for volunteer visits by aged care service providers, family members or friends, or they can refer themselves.
Food, nutrition and dining
Creating a festive atmosphere
It is a simple thing to bring joy this holiday season to the people in your aged care service and those visiting, including those who do not celebrate Christmas, by creating a festive atmosphere.
Decorate the dining room with colourful or themed placemats, paper hats, bon bons or Christmas crackers. The jokes might not always be the funniest, but crackers are fun to pull apart with staff and other diners to see who gets the spoils and to find out what is in them!
Provide some homemade meals and things to eat that are not available to residents at other times of the year. Ask them to write down some suggestions of goodies that they would like.
It’s also great to have some easily accessible activities to do with residents, including with their visitors. The Commission recently published a suite of colouring resources which can bring people together for creative fun.
The artworks, created by artist and aged care worker Annette Innis, are designed to promote discussions about food and the life events and celebrations that are centred on food, its preparation and consumption. You can use the accompanying stories to spark memories and conversations about the pictures.
Remember that, at all times of the year, it is important for staff to be confident that they are providing a fulfilling dining experience for residents encompassing, for example, the way staff interact with residents, the ambience of the eating area, the presentation of food, and conversation during mealtimes.
The Commission has resources that can be used in staff training to support a good dining experience:
Governing for reform
The Governing for Reform in Aged Care program led by the Commission provides tailored learning materials on critical leadership and governance challenges.
From 1 January 2024, this Program will be available to anyone working in the aged care sector.
Current participants need to be aware that:
- from 1 January 2024, when you visit the website, you will be redirected to the Commission’s main website to access content
- digital badges will end on 31 December 2023 and will be replaced by certificates of completion
- if you want to make a record of your completed activity, you will need to do that by 31 December 2023
- learning materials will continue to be available. This includes podcasts, webinar recordings, online learning modules, flip guides, topic guides, tools and the For the Board Kit.
Read more about the program.