Coronavirus will bring out either the best or worst in aged care service providers, writes Sharon Williams.

It isn’t unreasonable to think that aged care service providers are on trial in the way they respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

They are already the subject of a royal commission and its interim report tabled in Federal Parliament on 31 October 2019, was scathing; declaring the aged care system a shocking tale of neglect.

The report, which followed a 10-month investigation, found the system failed to meet the needs of elderly people, often neglected them and was unkind and uncaring.

They were harsh words that seriously damaged the reputation of the industry.  

Sharon Williams

The royal commission has suspended all hearings for the time being due to the coronavirus.

Interestingly though, it is keeping a close eye on how aged care service providers are responding during the coronavirus pandemic.

The royal commissioners have acknowledged the substantial efforts being made by aged care service providers and their staff in supporting  older people during this crisis.

Aged care service providers should take heart from these words. They provide a pathway, to not rewrite history, but allow actions to speak louder than words in doing the right thing by residents during this health pandemic.

We recognise that all Australians have had restrictions placed on them as a result of coronavirus. In the case of older Australians in residential care, the consequences of the measures taken to protect them may be causing them more harm.

As the royal commission chair Tony Pagone said recently, the measures put in place to protect frail older people must also deal with the negative aspects of the measures designed to protect them.

One such situation is the reduction of visits from family. This need to feel needed is a pressure on aged care centres to supplement with additional measures to ensure a healthy, mental as well as physical quality of life.

Aged care providers, you will be judged by how you respond. I am reluctant to call it an opportunity as this could easily be misinterpreted.

However, if the chance to highlight doing more of the right thing presents you in a better light, it is surely the best decision.

The reputation of aged care service providers has been seriously damaged as a result of events leading up to the royal commission. But there is no better time than the present to look at a recovery strategy. 

The measures you take to provide care and quality of life to our older citizens during this pandemic should be the cornerstone of this recovery strategy. It is a time to reinvent, consolidate, re-strategise and pivot for longevity.

It is worth remembering that 81 per cent of consumers want to engage with brands they trust.

The question of trust couldn’t be more relevant to families then when they sit down to decide on an aged care facility for a loved one, or speak about the centre their loved ones are in. The families want to know this special person in their life is receiving the best possible care and quality of life. Do make promises you can keep.

That level of trust is tested even further as restrictions are placed on visitations. We need to acknowledge that an inability to receive visitors, or a lessening of time which visitors may attend to visit, can have impacts upon the supplementary care family visitors frequently provide for such basic things as feeding and toileting.

Good communications need to prevail and here lies the importance of ensuring service providers have identified all stakeholders. You need to be visible, pro-active, transparent, timely and conscious of keeping people up to date.

Constant monitoring is a key to examine how your communications are being received. Make sure the messages are being delivered from the top and employees are familiar with the processes and changes are occurring.

Don’t go missing in action. That is an important message for management.

As we often say in public relations with that decision you have made, be prepared to see it on the front page of the newspaper or on the television news.

In this instance, I would add a further filter.

How would the royal commissioners view that decision?

Sharon Williams is chief executive officer and founder of Taurus Marketing.

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1 Comment

  1. My mum’s aged care facility are locking out services including cleaning, food and allied health services! They are saying it is to protect the residents but it is very obviously profiteering and frankly disgusting. I work in a different aged care facility so I know they get funding for all this through ACFI.
    This is simply elder abuse.

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