Aged care leaders should start measuring and benchmarking the quality of life for the residents in their facilities as a way of fostering industry-wide collaboration to ensure older people live better lives.

In an impassioned address at the Aged & Community Services Australia summit on Wednesday, long-serving aged care executive and industry leader Mike Rungie encouraged providers to think beyond compliance with clinical standards and even current challenges such as the Aged Care Funding Instrument cuts.

Mike Rungie
Mike Rungie

“As leaders we’ve got to ask if we care about quality of life, and if we do, what we can do about it,” he told the Hobart audience.

Dr Rungie’s organisation, ACH Group, is part of a group of South Australian providers involved in the SA Innovation Hub which has been exploring the use of various tools to measure quality of life.

Under his tenure, ACH Group has trialled different service models that enable older people to not just receive high quality care, but to also live quality lives.

Dr Rungie said it was clear that roles were crucial in assisting residents to have independence and purpose, and to maintain life skills after moving into an aged care facility.

“Roles are at the centre of how we view our quality of life; they create satisfaction, anticipation – they’re how you fill your day,” he said.

“Even for frail older people you can think about how to create roles that make sense for them.”

Older people needed skills and reputation to enhance roles, Dr Rungie said, but residents often reported that aged care did not build skills and it destroyed reputations. He said:

“When the person enters aged care, reputation is the one thing they hold onto. The person is suffering a lot of losses, and a lot of ageism. Our job as providers is to understand that building skills and not destroying reputation is very important.”

Dr Rungie encouraged providers to start measuring and benchmarking quality of life inside their facilities, across their organisation, and externally.

This would enable providers to identify what was working to improve quality of life, and to share those innovations with the broader sector, he said. “The really interesting stuff often comes from looking at where you’re doing well and what’s contributing to that.”

A major learning opportunity was to find and learn from home care providers that were using CDC to drive choice and quality of life for clients, as it was possible to redesign residential aged care so it contained more of those elements, he said.

“Leaders also need to get on top of why roles matter. You need to find people in your organisation who have roles and whose quality of life is going up; meet them, learn from those stories. Start to ask questions as a leader about what you could do to increase the potential for roles in your facilities, even for frail older residents.”

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5 Comments

  1. It is in everbody’s interest to provide opportunities to maintain and improve QOL among residents in aged care. Recognising and developing the experiences and skills of older people not only helps them but makes their much easier and less costly. We are providing Computer Kiosks and classes to help residents improve their conputer capability so that they can stay connected and in control of their lives and have all sorts of meaningful and exciting things to do with their time. We encounter some ageism and struggle to get facility managers to put in wifi for resident and guests. This could make such a difference.

  2. Great idea but and I truly believe there are great opportunities within the area of Lifestyle to enhance quality of life. It’s about knowing the person and giving them purpose and meaning in their lives. Give them back control over their lives by providing opportunities to be part of the decision making process and facilitate the process of assuming roles such as delivering mail, running the in home shop, assisting in admin duties. The list goes on and on. However, we need to be Innovative and think of how this can continue as people who move into care become more frail and not as able. Challenging but exciting times ahead. A coordinated and collaborative response is required across an organisation and by leaders to ensure quality of life for older people becomes a priority.

  3. I totally agree with Toni Wallwork. We’ve all heard the calls from staff, residents, clients and families about the need for organisations to implement programs to enrich lives of the very people they exist around/for.
    Taking it to next level requires committment on the part of an organisation. The unfortunate thing is that not that many organisations appear to understand the need for quality change e.g. to make a real difference.
    I’ve worked across the sector from home to facility, from pca to lifestyle coordinator.
    Dedicated staff make a difference everyday however the big changes must come from the top of organisations. There is so much exciting news coming out every day about wonderful projects that can enhance quality of life. I would love to see a CEO become a worker for a week in age care – then they might just get the message.

  4. Toni I agree with you. It has been proven scientifically the advantages of a robust Activity program. However QOL within a robust Activity program is doomed. Majority of nursing homes do not see the value of an Activity program. Majority of lifestyle people work to little and in half cases a zero budget. The ratio of residents is tipped in the favour of an institutional model. I hear the rhetoric all the time but over the years nothing has changed. I personally know of lifestyle people working at a ratio of one to 40 high care residents. Others, one person to 80. Or two people for 200. This is reality I speak of. Groups do not appreciate their value. There is zero funding available to lifestyle program via government. However these people are integral for a nursing home meeting their 44 standards, lifestyle comes under 3.0 and it’s several standards under that. A lifestyle certificate takes 12 months of study to achieve and longer if undertaking a diploma as against personal Carers of 6-8 weeks of study. The paperwork undertaken is enormous. Whilst being paid a miserable hourly rate, similar to PCA’s (who also are under duress) Most stay for the love of the work they do and the sheer difference they make to a resident living with dementia. A lifestyle program equals sales in the end for most facilities without most facilities getting serious about digging into finances in assisting to create a robust program in conjunction with dedicated people. We are an after thought, something groups must have. We are not looked upon as being part of achieving QOL to the elderly who live in these concrete ghettos

  5. I just hate it when I may enquire, complain or inquire and my Mums residential care responds in an ‘official’ way. Replies from admin or staff; that state nobody else feels the way, sees the way I or my Family may see it… confirmation that my concerns are not the concerns of the majority or are refuted by those who I may be taking up an issue for… Dam soul destroying from the outside. Imagine how it is from the inside. Simple enquiry, suggestion, taken as to require an institutionalised reply on paper! Little wonder why some Family members just give up.

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