Complaints about residential aged care services have dropped while complaints about home care services have risen, a first-of-its-kind report from the regulator shows.
Published by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the report, Complaints about aged care services – Insights for providers, explores the complaints received by the regulatory body about aged care services.
“This report uses the information we collect as the national regulator to give providers key insights from the thousands of complaints we manage and resolve every year,” writes commission chief Janet Anderson in the report’s foreword. “Providers are encouraged to use the data, case studies and guided questions in this report to learn about good complaint handling processes that they can apply to their service.”
Covering the period July 2022 to June 2023, the report shows 5,077 complaints were received about residential aged care services – down from the previous year (6,404).
New South Wales received the most complaints about the residential aged care sector (1,625), followed by Victoria (1,317), then Queensland (1,043).
Concerns about the administration and management of medication was the number one issue raised with the commission about residential aged care. Complaints about the administration and management of medication often include concerns about the appropriate identification, handling and timing of medication.
The top 10 complaint issues for residential care were:
Representatives or family members made the most complaints about residential care (56.3 per cent), and the individual receiving the care made the least (7.1 per cent).
Family members were most likely to complain about:
- the quality of consultation with the representative of the person receiving care and their family
- personal and oral hygiene of the person receiving care medication administration and management
- fall prevention and post fall management
- change of clinical status and deterioration.
People receiving care were more likely to complain about the quality and variety of food, and the management and administration of their medication.
Complaints about staff were more likely to be made anonymously.
Home care complaints
Focusing on home care services, the 33-page report shows complaints during the period rose slightly. In all, 4,015 complaints were received about home services – up on the previous year (3,825).
Home services include Home Care Packages, Commonwealth Home Support Program services, services delivered in a home setting, and flexible care.
Victoria received the most home care complaints (1,237), followed by New South Wales (1,030), and Queensland (898).
Lack of consultation and communication, and financial matters – particularly fees and charges – feature prominently in complaints from people receiving home care and their representatives and family members.
The top 10 complaint issues for home services were:
People receiving home services were more likely than family members and representatives to complain about:
- the availability or quality of general house cleaning
- domestic assistance
- how providers communicated fees and charges.
Family members and representatives raised more concerns than people receiving care about:
- how providers managed people’s finances
- the processing of reimbursements for bought items.
As with residential care complaints, anonymous complainants were more likely to raise concerns about the skills and qualifications of home care staff.
The commission finalised a total of 5,475 residential care complaints and 4,202 home services complaints between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023.
“Resolving complaints is one of the commission’s core responsibilities and functions,” writes Ms Anderson. “We work closely with people making complaints and providers to take action on and, where possible, address concerns about the care and services being delivered.”
Handling complaints well both reflects and reinforces attributes of a high-performing aged care service, writes complaints commissioner Louise Macleod. “It helps providers to meet general principles of fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, accessibility and building a culture of open disclosure.”
Ms Macleod – who was appointed to her role in May –adds: “Early and effective resolution of complaints leads to improved care for older Australians. It speaks to how efficient and effective the organisation is and supports providers to deliver the outcomes that older Australians want.”