Consumer directed care is bringing about historic change in the way clients and providers of aged care services do business. But that’s just the beginning, the CEO of one of Australia’s largest home care providers will tell a key industry conference.

Martin Warner
Martin Warner

Martin Warner, CEO of Home Instead Senior Care (Australia), will argue at the Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) national congress later this month that in the new home care space the model has to evolve from one based on partnership to one based on relationship.

He says relationship-based care recognises that the care recipient is central and connected to the provider through a network of relationships. In other words, he tells Community Care Review, relationship comes first and task is second.

“Relationship-based home care creates a clear structure that moves beyond a compliance or ‘tick-box’ approach,” he says.

“Care traditionally – and I think a lot of this has been generated through government-assisted care – has been delivered on a task basis, which is where you go from one client to the next and there’s no time for relationships.

“In this world of consumer directed care consumers want to direct that more. But what I’ll be talking about is trying to take it to another level, so it’s actually not just about the consumer directing things but understanding why the relationship is important and how that makes a difference to somebody’s life.

“It’s basically understanding who they are, what their needs are its how do I engage with them in a meaningful way,” he says.

“As part of our training we have an entire book which is about all these different things I can do with a client, 10 minutes a day over a six-month period. It’s all about engaging with activities, conversation and so on. It’s putting that at the front and centre of the care we’re providing.”

Surviving historic change

The latest StewartBrown quarterly report, released on Monday, painted a grim picture of the home care industry, showing declining profitability and a growing mountain of unspent funds. The message was clear: it’s sink or swim for the industry.

Warner acknowledges the sector may have hit a wall but says he looks at it as a “halfway house”.

“There are some great things happening in Australia in terms of the approach towards home care, in particular consumer directed care which was about choice and flexibility,” he says.

“We’ve kind of hit the wall and we need to overcome that wall. I’m not saying it’s an easy wall to overcome, but nevertheless we’re kind of halfway. There’s more to do but we’ve taken a great direction as a nation.”

Warner says the key to surviving is managing the change.

“This is a very historical time,” he says. “What organisations need to do is step back and understand what’s going on, as opposed to thinking we’ll just carry on because it’ll get better.

“That means dealing with governance systems and understanding your position in the market from a competitive point of view.

“The same-old-same-old won’t do because the government’s opened up the market for consumers so you have to respond to that.

“Managing change is probably the biggest challenge that exists for providers because there’s a demand there. It’s just about how the industry responds in how they provide those services.

Finding the positive in the royal commission

Warner says some organisations may feel threatened by the royal commission into aged care which is set to begin hearings in Adelaide, but he says good can also come out of it.

“I think it will shine a light and expose good and bad, and move us forward. I think it will also identify a number of inefficiencies both at government and industry level. It’s an opportunity to take stock and get some creative ideas about how things can be improved.”

US-based brand Home Instead is the largest senior care franchise in the world with more than 1,000 franchises around the globe. Warner and his wife Sarah founded Home Instead Australia in Queensland in 2005. It currently employs over 2000 staff and has a nationwide network of 28 offices providing non-medical care to clients.

The LASA National Congress will be held in Adelaide from October 28-30.

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