Perceptions of aged care deteriorate since COVID

An RSL LifeCare survey of baby boomers shows the pandemic has deteriorated perceptions of aged care, with only 3 per cent willing to move into residential aged care in its current format.

Almost a quarter of Australian baby boomers say COVID-19 has made them feel more negatively towards residential aged care and only 3 per cent want to move into an aged care home in its current format.

That’s according to the second annual RSL LifeCare Baby Boomer Survey of more than 1,000 Australians aged 56-74 about their impressions and expectations of aged care services.

NSW and ACT provider RSL LifeCare, which released the findings this week, commissioned an independent third-party research house to undertake the nationally representative survey.

It shows that 23 per cent of participants feel more negatively about accessing aged care services in the future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RSL LifeCare CEO Graham Millett said this finding reflected the early stages of the pandemic.

“It goes back to the early stages of COVID when the most vulnerable in society were clearly the aged, and they were in residential aged care. They were in close proximity to each other and so the mortality rate in aged care facilities was very high,” Mr Millett told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“But paradoxically, given the mortality rate early on and the very strict safeguards that have been put in place by all of the providers and government direction… very high level of vaccination means… these places are in fact some of the safest places to be in the community when it comes to COVID-19,” he said.

Graham Millett

The survey also shows 3 per cent of participants want to enter residential aged care in its current format, while 78 per cent want to stay in their own homes.

Mr Millett said the overall perception of aged care and the shift in wanting to live independently influenced this result.

“A chunk of it goes back to the COVID situation, but also people now are healthier. They are living longer lives, but also healthier lives and so they feel that independent living is more suitable for them,” Mr Millett said.

“The royal commission highlighted that in some circumstances – and it was a minority of providers – aged care was inferior. That was a small percentage but nonetheless all aged care providers then tend to get tarred with the same brush… so there’s that hesitancy,” he said.

However, there has been an increase in the proportion of participants who believe aged care is very good or excellent (16 per cent) from the previous year (10 per cent).

Mr Millett said this increase was due to providers responding to the royal commission and the greater understanding of government scrutiny in the sector.

The royal commission “caused everybody to raise their standards”, he said.

The survey highlights the business model for aged care must shift to put more focus on home care and retirement villages, Mr Millett said.

Providers also have a role to play in changing perceptions of aged care through education, he said.

“We as care providers have the responsibility to explain better what people can expect in their senior years, both financially and also in terms of qualitative factors such as physical health and mental health facilities that are available to them,” Mr Millett said.

“We need to change our business model first. And we need to adapt the provision of our services to people in line with their expectations. That’s the most important thing. You can’t ignore this sort of customer feedback.”

RSL LifeCare has engaged an urban planner to undertake a master planning exercise of its aged care home in Narrabeen and will consider the feedback from the survey, Mr Millett said.

Other findings

Of the baby boomers surveyed:

  • 40 per cent are still working
  • 61 per cent want to fund their own retirement from their superannuation
  • 91 per cent believe their overall wellbeing is good, very good or excellent
  • 89 per cent describe their mental health as good, very good or excellent
  • high quality food, wellness support and excursions are the three most important provisions when considering an aged care home to live in.

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Tags: baby boomers, COVID19, graham millett, research, rsl lifecare, RSL LifeCare Baby Boomer Survey,

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