Managing the “risk of choice” in a consumer-led aged care environment is complex, say providers following premature deaths report.
While aged care providers need to ensure facilities are as safe as possible for residents, they must also consider how a “black and white focus” on falls prevention could compromise quality of life, says Sandra Hills, CEO of Victorian provider Benetas.
Ms Hills said that while last week’s report into premature deaths in aged care provides important insights, consideration must be given to a person’s right to self-determination.
The research by Monash University Professor Joseph Ibrahim found that 15 per cent of the 21,672 deaths examined were premature and potentially preventable, and falls were the most frequent cause of these deaths (82 per cent).
Ms Hills said her organisation often worked with residents, their families and allied health teams, to identify how they can be best supported to live a happy life. For some this might mean walking unassisted or not wearing devices intended to prevent harm, she said.
“We need to work out how we can honour the older person’s right to choose, while maintaining their safety as best as possible,” said Ms Hills.
“Managing the risk of choice, particularly in the current landscape of consumer directed care, is a very complex issue for providers.”
In 2015 Benetas partnered with the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) to better understand falls and ways to mitigate risk.
“We know that it only takes a relatively low impact fall for an older person’s health to be compromised and for this reason we want the likelihood of a fall to be reduced as much as practicable,” said Ms Hills.
“Our work with NARI has helped us develop a comprehensive falls prevention pathway for our clinical teams to follow,” she said.
‘Manage risks intelligently’
Dr Stephen Judd, CEO of HammondCare, cautioned against a situation where residential staff became “fixated on compliance rather than fostering a good quality of life” for the people they are caring for.
“Rather than trying to eliminate risks, we must manage risks intelligently,” he said.
Dr Judd said that while there had been “incredible” improvement in aged care provision in the past 15 years, he agreed that there was more to do.
However, better care will not come through greater regulation or process but through market competition, he said.
If the Commonwealth uncaps the supply of aged care beds, as recommended by the Aged Care Sector Committee, operators could establish new services wherever needed, as has been done in the home care market, Dr Judd said.
“This would enable greater true choice for prospective residents and ultimately lift the standard for residential services.”
Related AAA coverage:
- Premature deaths report puts focus on falls
- Aged care residents the ‘poor cousins’ in falls research
- Call to action on falls prevention
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