Developing a new rights-based  Act for aged care is ongoing and “a really big undertaking,” a health department bureaucrat has told a forum on spiritual care in aged care.

Meaningful Ageing Australia hosted a forum on Thursday about the upcoming aged care reforms and the importance of social, emotional and spiritual support in aged care.  

Department of Health first assistant secretary, quality and assurance division Amy Laffan said work has commenced on the new rights-based Aged Care Act recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“It’s a really big undertaking. If any of you have looked at the Aged Care Act at the moment, you’ll see it’s really focused on providers and the relationship between the department and aged care provider,” Ms Laffan told the forum.

“What we’re looking at doing is turning that on its head and having a focus on senior Australians and the end users of the system and focusing on values and rights, needs and goals and preferences, rather than… the focus being the regulatory arrangements with providers.”

She said there would be a range of consultation on the new Act including by policy areas, the Act itself and how it all fits together.

ECH CEO David Panter said rights-based aged care was about having control and that much more work was needed to get the Australian aged care sector there.

David Panter

“It’s very much around ensuring that as an individual, you have control over what’s happening to you and what’s happening with your life,” Mr Panter told the forum.

“We still have a huge issue, particularly in the current aged care reform agenda where there is a real danger that… for those people who wish to carry on receiving care at home, that we’re going to turn their homes into institutions and start to regulate what it is they can and cannot do in their own homes,” he said.

“We still got a lot to fight for to make sure that we have that focus on a human rights perspective.”

VMCH CEO Sonya Smart also said providing residents with choice and control was key to a human-rights approach.

This is especially difficult when the care recipient’s views differ from their family member’s opinion, she said.

“When we work with families who have certain expectations and their expectations sometimes aren’t aligned with the people that are in the homes; – [they don’t] align with their own parents – that does make it very difficult for choice and control,” Ms Smart told the forum.

Choice and control during COVID

Mr Panter said ECH has taken steps to support clients to have choice and control during COVID-19.

“For us it’s been about negotiating with each of our individual clients and what is the risk they are prepared to take around COVID,” he said.

Sonya Smart

“We’re doing all we can… for example, our staff are vaccinated even though it’s not mandated for home care. But at the end of the day, we’re respecting the individual’s choice as to how they want to live their life,” Mr Panter said.

Ms Smart said it has been more difficult to support aged care residents with their choices due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“In residential aged care here in Victoria our residents haven’t seen their family since June and this feeling of isolation and is there any choice and real control in that? I’m not sure there is,” Ms Smart said.

More work is needed to support aged care residents to exercise choice and control, she said.

The Meaningful Ageing Australia National Member Forum took place on 16 September.

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1 Comment

  1. Choice and “control” comes at a cost. A very real and financial cost that under the present unrealistic expectations has already become unsustainable.
    Ms Smarts comment about residents living in facilities not seeing family for months is a bit misleading, people living at home in the community living under lockdown haven’t seen their families either!!
    The difference is that care and support in a facility is there 24/7 while very little care has been available at home under covid restrictions. Tell the whole story.. please.

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