Drug education and testing policy for aged care in the works

Aged & Community Services NSW & ACT is developing a drug and alcohol testing policy and support package for aged care in consultation with experts from the field and employee unions.

Aged & Community Services NSW & ACT (ACS) is developing a drug and alcohol testing policy and support package for aged care in consultation with experts from the field and employee unions.

The aim is to develop an effective policy template for aged care providers to use that supports all staff who may need help and addresses the risks associated with drug and alcohol use, said Geoff Liggins, ACS manager employee relations.

“The package is the policy, the training, the education and the support because we are not trying to catch people out, we are trying to raise the profile of the whole issue,” he told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Mr Liggins is co-presenting about drug and alcohol policies and testing in aged and community care at the Aged & Community Care National Summit in Hobart next month with Bryce Dick, managing director of Drug Detection Agency, who is involved in the policy’s development.

The impetus for the policy was in part in response to the coronial inquiry into the deaths of 14 residents at a residential aged care facility in Sydney’s Quaker’s Hill in 2011, Mr Liggins  said.

He said he was not aware of any aged care organisations that had implemented drug testing in their facilities yet, however, he said there was an identified gap and several members contacted ACS for advice on what to do following the coronial inquiry.

“We have regularly but not overwhelmingly had issues where members had to deal with drugs, alcohol or behavioural issues. They couldn’t necessarily tell if it was a drug or alcohol problem. They could see observed behaviours in employees that were not normal to the person’s normal behaviour and there wasn’t an effective or in place policy process or procedure for them to be able to try and determine what that issue is and how to handle it,” Mr Liggins said.

He said the two other key reasons behind the policy were an increase in anecdotal evidence about the rise of drugs such as ice in many communities coupled with the frailty and vulnerability of aged care populations.

Drug testing policies and procedures

medication, pills, overdose, tabletsThe package in development includes training for managers in how to deal with staff who have a problem or are identified as having drugs in their system, and also how to help employees seek assistance, Mr Liggins said.

The education component is to ensure all staff understood the risks they put themselves, the residents they were looking after, and their co-workers under if they were involved in, for instance, illicit drug taking, heavy alcohol use the night before work or used a range of prescription and over-the-counter medications, he said.

Those risks are that drugs and alcohol can effect a person’s ability to perform their job or their judgement in terms of decision-making, Mr Liggins said.

He said staff should be facilitated to talk about their issues and then referred to the employee assistance program or another avenue for support where needed.

The policy is being developed specifically for NSW with the intention that once implemented it would serve as a model for other states, he said.

The ACSA National Summit takes place 6-9 September in Hobart.

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Tags: acs-nsw-act, acsa-national-summit-2016, geoff-liggins, workforce,

5 thoughts on “Drug education and testing policy for aged care in the works

  1. Interesting piece with a focus on AOD testing of staff.

    I don’t believe the sector has a similar guidance about working with clients who have AOD addictions. My limited knowledge about addictions and a long term interest in ageing has sparked a postgrad thesis about older people with addictions (although from a counselling perspective). I may be wrong but I think that direct care workers need some guidance as well about working with people who have AOD addictions (including over-the-counter prescription addictions). We will have people with addictions who will age combined with mental illness and disability and who may be socially isolated.

  2. I would hope also that people living in aged care facilities are given honest information about cannabis and not fear talks inspired by ice. In many communities in the united states aged care facilities are having good results from medicinal cannabis.

  3. I think from an alcohol and illegal drug point of view this is a very good strategy. However, I question any employers right to delve into a person taking prescription medication.That is the business of the person and their doctor. Not the business of an employer unless the person wishes to inform the employer. At what point will this become a breach of privacy if a person is fit for work but does not wish to disclose their medical Hx. ?

  4. I was extremely surprised to find out that their is no random drug testing of aged care providers/staff in aged care facilities in Queensland!
    Considering nurses are tested why not aged care staff who have access to patients medications not to mention any illicit drugs they may are consuming then working with frail & vulnerable members of society

  5. I too am horrified that aged care workers are not subject to Random drug testing their clients are vulnerable.
    Home care workers are unsupervised, as a rule one carer to one resident.
    After caring for my mother in our home for over 8 years I couldn’t speak more highly of 80% of the carers.

    However I have witnessed particular
    carers Smoking recreational drugs not long before a service.

    is it your moral duty of care to report this matter.
    to the agency?

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