There are several principles in the sector’s workforce strategy that aged care providers should implement immediately instead of waiting for the aged care royal commission’s final report, the author of the strategy tells an aged care conference.

Professor John Pollaers, the former chair of the aged care workforce strategy taskforce and lead author of its final report A Matter of Care addressed last week’s Strengthening the Aged Care Workforce conference about where to from here.

“The conversation that we really want to have… about where do we go from here is to recognise what we can do for ourselves,” Professor Pollaers told the conference.

“It’s important to acknowledge that… we cannot afford to answer the question ‘where to from here’ by saying we’re going to wait for the outcomes of the royal commission, or we’re going to wait for the government to design a new system,” said Professor Pollaers, chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology and executive chairman at Leef Independent Living Solutions.

Professor John Pollaers presenting at the Strengthening the Aged Care Workforce conference

Professor Pollaers said the industry collaboration of 13 provider and consumer peak organisations did not need to wait for government action to develop the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 in May.

“Within about a fortnight you came up with a visitation code, you solved the problem, and you solved the problem without the need for government intervention,” he said.

Professor Pollaers said aged care providers should revisit the 14 strategic actions in A Matter of Care, which cover attitudes to caring, attracting and retaining a skilled aged care workforce that meets the needs of consumers now and into the future, and the seven guiding principles for an voluntary industry code of practice.

“The first answer to where to from here is get it out and read it again, because it’s still relevant,” he said.

Many aspects in A Matter of Care can be implemented now, including the first guiding principle that says consumers and their families must be at the heart of care decisions and outcomes, Professor Pollaers said.

“You can do something about that right now by making sure that the people in your businesses have the skills to engage family, to keep them up to date, to recognise that their needs and interests are different to the [care recipient],” he said.

“That’s a simple conversation. But what’s important there is it’s a regular conversation, and so the thing you can do is just make sure that it is a regular conversation.”

He said the second principle, which addresses ageing living well and integrated models of care and holistic care planning, can also be implemented now.

“A holistic care plan consists of your clinical health, your functional health, your cognitive health, your living well aspirations and your cultural needs. And if you don’t have a care plan that covers off those five elements, then you don’t have a care plan,” he said.

“The issue is each person needs to have their own care plan. And what’s really at the heart of what drives the system, is understanding what that need is, providing for that need, monitoring how it develops over time and continuing to update that plan,” Professor Pollaers said.

He said having a holistic care plan as a workable document is important.

“Neither of the things that I’ve just mentioned require any money, they don’t require another dime. It’s a way of thinking.”

Providers need to keep asking themselves what they can do now, Professor Pollaers said.

“When you come to work, you’ve got to feel empowered. And the minute you start thinking that you’re waiting for government, it disempowers you, so keep the power with you and keep pushing this forward,” he said.

The Strengthening the Aged Care Workforce conference took place as a virtual event on 21 – 22 October.

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