Achieving excellence in aged care

The secret to excellence in aged care is compassion and commitment, delegates have heard at an industry conference this week.

The secret to excellence in aged care is compassion and commitment, delegates have heard at an industry conference on Tuesday.

“Nobody wants to come to work and do a bad job, I’ve not met one person that does,” said Melissa Argent – chief executive officer of Queensland provider Rockpool Residential Aged Care. “And I think we need to start celebrating that excellence that we see every day.”

Ms Argent appeared on a panel discussing achieving excellence in aged care at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association’s inaugural Queensland conference.

Facilitated by ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson, the panel also featured Daniel Aitchison – CEO of New South Wales and Queensland aged care provider Palm Lake Care; Liam Mayo – CEO at home care services provider Comlink Australia; Adrian Morgan – general manager at home care provider Flexicare; James Underwood of aged care management consultants James Underwood & Associates; and consumer advocate Claudine Swiney-Carroll.

The key to delivering excellence, said Mr Aitchison, is to be customer centric. “That real focus on the individual.”

However, Mr Aitchison acknowledged that there’s not a single model of care that’s going to work for every individual – “everyone’s different,” he said.

It’s important, he added, to gain feedback from residents, and ask “What would make your life easier? … What would make a difference to you rather than us burrowing down a path that might not be actually the right way.”

Melissa Argent and James Underwood

For Mr Underwood, quality care comes down to cash. “It’s very hard to provide excellence in care if you don’t have the money to do it. If you have the money then you can have the staff levels, you can have them well trained and well-incentivised … You have the management you need, the support you need, and the supervision – and on it goes. Without these things, it’ so difficult to think of having excellence in care.”

Ms Swiney-Carroll told delegates, for its part, the sector needed to be easier to engage with. “You’re like a hidden door. You’re kind of there but unless something happens to you and you have to break that door open, you’re not very accessible. There’s not a lot out there for you to read or touch-point on.”

When asked what government could do to help providers deliver better care, Mr Morgan told delegates it could cut the amount of red tape. “We’re drowning in regulation at the moment. So one of the things they could do is probably get out of the way a bit.”

Mr Morgan added he could not think of any service that had regulated its way to excellence. “Excellence,” he said, “comes from another place. Whereas what regulation tends to lead to is adequacy and safety – that’s what we can hope for from regulation.”

Government needs to also look at the way it regulates the sector, said Mr Morgan. “It would be great if it approached it with a lighter touch mode.” It seems as if regulation is the only response government can come up with, he added.

As the panel came to an end, questions were asked from the floor. One delegate asked the panellists to sum up in one word what the sector needed to do to change in order to satisfy the next generation of residents – the baby boomers. “It is about community, fundamentally,” said Mr Mayo.

For Ms Argent it was all about meeting expectations. “What they expect, we should be able to deliver. If we can’t adapt and create that … then we are in significant strife.”

Mr Morgan stressed the importance of maintaining relationships in aged care. “At the end of the day it’s a relationship between an individual and an older person. If that’s respectful and kind, that is what will be remembered; that is what will have impact.”

Tom Symondson

Mr Symondson had the last word: trust. “Our trust with government, the [royal] commission, our residents – our potential residents – our community. The reason it’s so easy to tell negative stories and so difficult to tell positive ones is because of a lack of trust.”

During the course of the two-and-a-half-day conference at The Star Gold Coast, around 400 delegates will receive an update on the government’s reform agenda, get insights into star ratings and quality indicators, and learn about the benefits of building workforce capacity – plus much more.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to network over drinks and dinner and catch up with their sector peers – some of whom they wouldn’t have seen in the flesh for four years since the last industry event held in the sunshine state.

The ACCPA Queensland conference kicks off a run of state events held by the provider peak during 2023 – a NSW & ACT conference will be held in May, with conferences in Victoria and Western Australia to follow in June.

ACCPA’s national conference – the largest aged care gathering in the southern hemisphere – will be held in October in Adelaide.

Main image left to right: Melissa Argent, James Underwood, Adrian Morgan, Daniel Aitchison, Claudine Swiney-Caroll and Liam Mayo

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Tags: accpa qld conference, adrian morgan, claudine swiney-carroll, daniel aitchison, featured, james underwood, liam mayo, melissa argent, Tom Symondson,

4 thoughts on “Achieving excellence in aged care

  1. Compassion, empathy, patience, holistic observation, listening, talking with, honesty, validation, cooperation, enabling, dedication, loyalty – are the very basis upon which Aged Care staff live and work and provide quality of life for the residents.
    It is these qualities that enable a Carer to persevere through the consumables shortage (gloves, continence aids, wipes etc) and the staff shortages that plague every aged care community (aka facility).
    It is not the dedication and qualities of the worker that needs a delegation to expound as the basis for success…but that dedication is what needs to be recognised, rewarded and SUPPORTED because each worker dedicates their passion for the resident’s welfare and quality of life DESPITE the lack of support, recognition and understanding, from people sitting behind a desk, looking at a piece of paper with a figure on it, instead of what is the reality faced by Carers every shift, every day, because they genuinely care about the people the are supporting – and THAT is what is being taken advantage of every shift, every day.
    More and more is being asked of limited staff numbers without a balanced approach, a balanced recognition, and balanced support.
    The foundation upon which carers work is crumbling – lack of consumables, lack of staff, lack of appreciation for the amount of work staff achieve because it is ‘expected’ and that expectation of persevering degrades the appreciation of the effort it really takes to care for a community (aka facility) of where the very needs and wants are concentrated, increased, intensified – do you honestly get the what I am trying to say, do you get the passion I have for the work, do get the frustration imposed on workers by the Aged Care ‘System’ ???
    Do you really???
    Not until upper management work for a full week in the INDIVIDUAL communities they administer, the idiosyncrasies of the residents, their behaviours, their needs, their wants that a sincere and thorough appreciation of what it takes to provide the quality of life that residents deserve, when there is a staff shortage, a consumable shortage, when more residents are admitted to a community, without a corresponding level of staff numbers increase, and the subsequent pressures imposed on staff, will it be truly appreciated what an amazing amount of dedication, unwaveringly high personal standards and teamwork it takes every shift, every day.
    Increase the numbers of residents in a community, and you increase the concentration of everything that is required, but residents who can no longer be supported in their own home is why residential aged care is required, but it seems to be the lowest rung for workers, given the support and pay currently provided.
    The say a Corporal in the Army has the most personnel directly in their charge, under their supervision, directly influencing their well-being, because they are their with them, next to them, doing what they do and the source of the material and morale support they need.
    So to the Aged Care workers – for they are directly involved in that person’s care, support and wellbeing – but they seem to be regarded the least, appreciated the least, but the expectations of the increased responsibilities are the highest. the higher the rank, the more overall responsibility,
    Yet more and more is asked of the worker, for a basic wage, with increasing expectations, without the foundations of support to enable the worker to really cope.
    For me, Aged Care support is THE most satisfying work I have EVER done, and I’ve served in the Military, worked for Govt, and worked for private enterprise.
    It is that very dedication and passion for the wellbeing of the people in our care that is being taken ‘advantage of’…

  2. As a Director of Nursing / Manager of Aged Care Facilities ranging from some 40 to over 600 beds, with over 40 years experience, the comments that ” the secret to excellence in aged care is compassion & commitment”…… as missing the mark completely. This sort of warm fuzzy remark indicates a complete lack of understanding of the absolute disaster, which is facing aged care & its providers today – in 2023.
    This whole situation has emanated from a Government decision back in 1997, which decreed that aged care should be delivered in a “homelike environment”. So we move into a time when other industries are demanding high levels of technical skill & the aged care sector seems content to settle for second best in terms of quality. When will it be understood that qualified staff need to be employed to deliver quality, skilled care to those older people in our communities, who have very special & often complex needs ??? It is simply incongruous to argue that older people need no more care skill than that which can be delivered by reasonable people at home!! If this is so, why is it then that recent reports of abuse of older people have been carried out both in aged care facilities & at the person’s home by carers who mean well but, are not equipped for the task.
    It is important to reflect on a system up to the early 1990s which worked really well & which all Australians were very proud of & then, due to a series of changes has demised to where we are now, with more money than ever from Government as well as potential residents, producing poorer results to the extent of previously large providers shutting their doors !! In June1993 I produced a published study relating to “The Cost of Quality / Skilled Staff – An argument for cost-effective manpower planning and employment”
    In 1989, I developed an innovative rostering idea relating to the very successful introduction of a 4 day x 38 hour week in a large aged care facility in Sydney.
    In 1997, I presented a paper on The Nursing Workforce in Residential Aged Care Facilities” at a Research Workshop in South Australia.
    There is no doubt that the modern trends of a well meaning but unskilled workforce together with Managers of aged care facilities who might be great in the business world but, become somewhat overwhelmed by the complexity of management skills
    required in an aged care facility.
    I am fully aware that many of my colleagues who shared the great times in aged care delivery have retired or, heaven forbid, are in receipt of aged care themselves. However, I am fortunate to have remained active & interested & continue to hope that somehow, someone will understand the issues & take necessary action to reverse the horrific conditions, which are being presented to our highly valued older people in this day & aged !!!!!!!

  3. Thanks Steve for your comments, which are very relevant ……it all gets back to MANAGEMENT & the associated issues such as:
    * How often do you have staff meetings & listen to staff ideas & suggestions / solutions to issues???
    * How often do you actually walk around the facility & relate to staff & actually see what is happening on the floor ????
    * How often do you visit the dining room at meal time & actually see what is happening & whether residents are enjoying their meals ??
    * How often do you actually check that supplies are adequate for staff to deliver the care required ???
    * Do you actually KNOW what to look for ?????
    OR……do you sit in your office & wait for the reports ?????????
    The other absolutely critical factor – as recently mandated by the Federal Government – is the presence of a qualified & experienced Registered Nurse onsite x 24 hrs who would provide guidance & encouragement to care staff as well as actually checking the clinical management of each individual resident in relation to their care needs. This would include actual checking for any issues such as pressure areas etc. / whether a resident is actually taking his/her medication, relating & reassurance to relatives etc.
    While I am well aware of the difficulties in acquiring qualified, professional staff, if a facility is operating in a proper, professional & supportive way, staff will come ……

  4. Well said Rosemary, this is absolutely spot on. I recently retired from 20 years aged care nursing and management-burnt out and disillusioned What a disaster we are in now in this country. It is only now that facilities are closing around the country, and not being bought out that people are now taking notice. I am sure the Quality Agency is also taking notice and hopefully trying to be more supportive rather than punitive…. I take my hat off to the people like yourself still in thge trenches. Yes warm and fuzzy doesn’t cut it anymore.

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