Almost half of aged care residents have concerns related to staff and understaffing, a new report commissioned by aged care royal commission shows.

The National Ageing Research Institute report, which was produced in partnership with Ipsos and the Social Policy Research Centre of the University of New South Wales, was published this morning alongside a complementary report on home and respite care perspectives.

It is the royal commission’s 13th report and involved a survey of 391 aged care residents from 67 aged care facilities.

The survey examined residents’ experience of care, quality of life, concerns and complaints including whether the complaints were resolved.  

Two-thirds of aged care residents reported one or more concerns about their care, half of respondents indicated two or more concerns with an average of four concerns. 

Almost half of residents reported concerns related staff (47 per cent), which included issues such as understaffing, unanswered call bells, high rates of staff turnover, and agency staff not knowing the resident or their needs.

Forty per cent of residents raised concerns about services and fees, such as food, catering, the dining experience, financial charges and feeling lonely or bored while a quarter of participants reported medical and health care concerns, including falls and fall prevention and medication management (26 per cent).

Associate Professor Frances Batchelor

Lead researcher Associate Professor Frances Batchelor said the results show a need to address aged care staffing in response to residents’ concerns.

“There is a clear call to increase staffing levels in residential aged care,” Associate Professor Batchelor told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“I think another way [to address their concerns] is we need to create an aged care workforce such that working in this area is a desirable career choice,” said Associate Professor Batchelor, director of clinical gerontology at NARI.

The report also looked at residents views on how well their needs are met in different areas of care.

It found that just 28 per cent of aged care residents feel their care needs are always met in all areas while 39 per cent report their care needs are at least mostly met in all areas. The remaining third of residents feel their care needs are met only sometimes or less in any area.

Aged care residents’ perspectives on the quality of care. Source: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

“That’s very concerning, because only a third then are having what we would expect to be good quality care experience,” Associate Professor Batchelor said.

She said the findings about the types of concerns were not surprising, but the lack of residents who followed their concerns through was.

Just over half of residents shared their concerns with others (53 per cent), around three-quarters of complaints were officially reported (75 percent), and 2 per cent of those complaints were raised with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Residents said they didn’t share their concerns because they felt they were too minor (43 per cent) or that nothing would change if they were reported (27 per cent), the report shows.

Two-thirds of residents said their concern was not resolved to their satisfaction, while just over half of respondents reported nothing had changed since they lodged the complaint.

Associate Professor Batchelor said an improved complaints procedure at the aged care provider level was needed to ensure residents’ needs are being met.

“We need to reframe this whole area so that it becomes normal to discuss concerns about care and what their needs and preferences are, rather than a complaints system that seems more formalised,” she said.

“We really need a culture shift in how complaints are dealt with and how we put residents at the centre of care.”

It is important to continue to hear from residents, she said.

“We need regular independent surveys of quality of care and quality of life, so we can benchmark organisations, aged care providers and track progress overtime,” she said.

Breakdown of resident concerns

Residents’ concerns related to services and fees and the proportion of residents who have them include:

  • food and catering (19 per cent of residents)
  • feeling lonely or bored (16 per cent)
  • the quality of laundry services (11 per cent)
  • fees and charges (10 per cent)
  • the dining experience (8 per cent)
  • having interesting lifestyle activities (6 per cent)
  • social engagement with the community (2 per cent)
  • access and reliability of internet (2 per cent)

Residents’ concerns related to medical and health care and the proportion of residents who have them include:

  • falls or fall prevention (8 per cent of residents)
  • the way medication is managed (7 per cent)
  • seeing a GP when needed (5 per cent)
  • seeing a dentist when needed (5 per cent)
  • how pain is managed (4 per cent)
  • accessing allied health services (3 per cent)
  • the quality of allied health serviced (2 per cent)
  • how wounds have been looked after (2 per cent)
  • being restrained (1 per cent)

Access the Research Paper 13 – Inside the system: aged care residents’ perspectives report here.

Comment below to have your say on this story. Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine and sign up to the AAA newsletter

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. It is concerning that aged care residents report being forced to wear continence pads. The finding suggests that residents do not agree that they require continence pads and that their dignity and freedom of choice is constrained. This is an important finding that we should not shy away from. Anecdotal reports of residents being encouraged to use their incontinence aids as their are insufficient staff to assist with toileting are alarming. I am confident that no-one reading this post would wish to be placed in this situation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.