The draft aged care accommodation principles and guidelines include four design principles, 31 design guidelines, 221 implementation checklist items and a focus on infection prevention and control throughout, a bureaucrat has shared at an industry conference.
The four principles aim to enable aged care residents to live well in a homelike environment with access to the outdoors and connections with the broader community.
That’s according to a “sneak peek” of the draft principles and guidelines that Department of Health and Aged Care assistant secretary of dementia, diversity and design Robert Day gave at Australian Healthcare Week 2023 last Thursday, ahead of their expected release “in the next couple of months”.
The National Aged Care Accommodation Design Principles and Guidelines will be the centrepiece of the government’s new Residential Aged Care Accommodation Framework due to commence from 1 July 2024.
They have been developed by a University of Wollongong-led consortium in consultation with the sector. Key considerations included:
- dementia-friendly design diversity
- smaller group home models
- enabling innovative design solutions.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the past 18 months or so and we now have a substantive draft of those principles and guidelines,” Mr Day told delegates.
“We want – and you know there’s something deliberate in the choice of the words – principles and guidelines; not standards. We want a document that is going to help support change and ambition in the aged care sector. But we don’t want to limit innovation and imagining of new dreams.”
The document – which features before and after illustrations – includes:
- four design principles that respond to systemic challenges in the industry
- 31 design guidelines that specify how each principle can be achieved
- 221 checklist items that support implementation of each guideline.
The principles and guidelines aim to follow a rights-based approach, de-institutionalise residential aged care and make it a more homelike and intimate experience for residents, Mr Day said.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that every aged care facility is going to be expected to be an eight, 12 or a 15-bed cottage. And within the principles and guidelines there are very explicit tools and tips about how you might make a large facility feel more homelike in terms of smaller neighbourhoods and more homelike settings.”
The four principles link and flow
The first principle is Enable the person. It aims to support people living in a place that maintains their health, wellbeing and sense of identity.
The second is Cultivate a home, which aims to create a familiar environment in which people have privacy, control and feel they belong.
The third principle is Access the outdoors. It aims to support people seeing, accessing and spending time outdoors in contact with nature.
Principle 4 – Connect with community – aims to encourage people to connect with family, friends and community, contributing to participate in meaningful activities.
Mr Day said there was a logic flowing behind why these four principles have been chosen. It starts with the experience of the individual in their most immediate environment and how they interact with the space around them, he said.
It then extends to how that person is engaging with the broader environment – the home in which they are living – followed by how to design and support engagement in the outdoors. Finally it goes to how to design support and facilitate engagement with the broader community, he said.
“After the experience of the last three years with Covid, it’s not going to surprise you that infection prevention and control is a really significant consideration in this document. And right through the guidelines and the checklist that sit under each of those four principles, there are tips and suggestions and strategies around infection prevention and control,” Mr Day said.
Mr Day said it was important to note that the principles and guidelines are a resource for the whole aged care sector – providers, architects and designers, and people who need to move into aged care and their family – to give a sense of what is possible. “What does good design look like and how do we get there?”
Building improvements, capital grants
The document is not just about new builds, said Mr Day, with recommendations throughout including small changes existing facilities can make to get them closer to the ideal.
“That includes things that might be able to be applied through operational changes. It includes things that might be able to be applied through routine maintenance, and other things that you can possibly pick up as part of a minor modifications program.”
In response to a question about how the guidelines might be tied to funding or statutory approvals, Mr Day said they could be linked to capital grants in the future.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the long term when we’re offering capital grants, there’s an element around ‘how can you demonstrate that what you’re proposing to build brings these principles and guidelines to life?’ I don’t imagine there’ll be really major changes to National Construction Code or Aged Care Quality Standards to reflect what’s in here, at least in the short term,” he said.
Next step involves further consultation
Australian Ageing Agenda understands the draft document has been provided to Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells ahead of its release. Once released, stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the document’s content and then on subsequent implemention.
“I expect in the next couple of months we’ll be releasing this document in all its gruesome detail for that next phase of constant conversation both about how we get it right – is it going to be fit for purpose? And think about what are the incentives that we need to help make this a reality,” Mr Day told delegates.
Main image: The four aged care accommodation principles in the draft document as presented by Robert Day, Department of Health and Aged Care