The UK system has embraced the user-pay philosophy more than Australia, which has allowed the provision of a very diverse range of services, aged care CEO Olive Wright says she observed on a recent study tour.
In this online series, aged care executives tell Australian Ageing Agenda about their overseas study tour experience and the learnings they have brought back to their organisation.
Ms Wright, who is chief executive officer of Perth aged care provider Meath Care, visited the UK on a SAGE study tour in April this year.
AAA: What was your motivation for undertaking the study tour?
OW: Meath is currently constructing a 130-bed facility to replace an old facility at our Como site south of Perth City. The facility has been designed to cater for residents with dementia, high care and palliative needs using modern technology to enhance the quality of lifestyle of our residents.
The tour appealed to me because of the range of venues we were visiting and the ability to look at new service delivery models. The tour included delegates from other Commonwealth countries which provided great opportunities for networking and gaining knowledge on how other organisations operate.
The changes to our current quality and compliance systems, which have a greater emphasis on the consumer and their representatives, encouraged me to research other systems available and I was quite inspired by the UK model. This tour provided me with an opportunity to learn about their system and see firsthand how it was working from an operational point of view.
The tour also incorporated the “Ageing in Common” conference organised by CommonAge, in partnership with the National Care Forum. It provided a Commonwealth perspective and overview on how countries are meeting the demands of our ageing population.
What were the aged care sector related highlights of the tour?
A highlight for me was the opportunity to meet with key players from the aged care industry who provided an overview of the UK model and set the scene for the planned visits of the tour.
Another highlight was that the majority of organisations we visited were set up to meet a need for older people many years ago and they are still striving and living their mission with the introduction of modern advances in technology.
One organisation in particular celebrated 100 years in 2017. The Whiteley Village, which was England’s first retirement village, consists of 262 cottages allocated to people who are of low income, homeless or living in inappropriate housing. The village is self-sufficient in many ways and generates an income by encouraging the local community to use their facilities.
The clubhouse is a hive of activity to ensure residents have opportunities to mix with others to avoid social isolation and maintain self-worth. In keeping with the increased acuity of residents, the village has developed a care home program and extra care serviced apartments for nearly 500 people to allow them to remain in the village.
From your experience, how does aged care in the UK compare to aged care in Australia?
It was quite refreshing to note that the UK is struggling in many ways like Australia with the increasing needs of the elderly population, which has put tremendous pressure on the Government’s purse strings. The UK system has embraced the user-pay philosophy more than Australia and this has allowed the provision of a very diverse range of services where people have more choices in deciding where they should live within their financial capabilities.
Obviously this will have its own challenges for people with lower economic means but there still are providers such as the St Monica Trust, which are funded by social services. This organisation like many in Australia has used its assets to invest in new initiatives to incorporate their strategic business plans to compliment and support their mission.
Tell us about one aspect of aged care that you saw on the tour that inspired you.
Each place had something different to offer and the range of services viewed inspired many ideas that could be implemented, albeit to various extents. One that particularly appealed to me was Lakeview, which is a luxury care home in Lightwater, Surrey, which provides residential and dementia care.
Care is supported by award-winning facilities that mean residents can carry on doing the things that make their lives theirs, from gardening and baking to simply enjoying a cup of coffee with friends in the Woodland Café. Lakeview Care Home in Surrey features a specialist dementia care community led by an experienced team of nurses, alongside residential care suitable for a range of residents.
The aim is to ensure each individual at Lakeview is able to maintain their quality of life, to recognise the individuality of each person and respond to their unique needs with both respect and dignity. The dementia community at “Lakeview” features an environment with slight design differences to accommodate the cognitive changes that residents may experience with dementia.
What did you see that you intend to implement or adapt in your aged care service? Why?
The focus of incorporating the hospitality aspects into residential care had many advantages, which I will certainly be developing into our facility. As aged care providers we can sometimes get caught up ensuring we are compliant with all our legislative requirements particularly in relation to clinical needs. The UK model certainly does this as well, but it also offers more services and choice for lifestyle activities which are very resident centric.
What key learnings from the tour can you share with your counterparts in the sector?
When I reflect on my tour I feel very blessed to be living and working in a country that already offers outstanding accommodation and services to our aged population. The involvement of residents and stakeholders is certainly a key learning of us all as competition and deregulation is just around the corner. The sector needs to be able to clearly demonstrate that they can provide strategies for residents, which allow risk taking to occur, within the legislative framework.
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