How minimum staffing levels will improve aged care

nurse thinking about minimum staffing levels

The Aged Care Royal Commission and COVID-19 have revealed some glaring gaps in the aged care system, a major one of which is the lack of consistency across facilities when it comes to minimum staffing levels. In Australia, there is no legislated, mandated staff ratio – most facilities operate on a consumer-directed care model, meaning that they have enough staff to care for individual people. It is becoming evident that many people have very complex care needs and require more care than is currently being provided to meet their clinical and everyday living care needs.

 

As is recommended by the counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care, minimum staffing should be legislated to ensure that all residents receive the care they need. Rather than a concrete number of staff, it is recommended that the minimum staffing levels are essentially just that and these staffing levels should increase as the complexity of resident’s care needs change over time.

 

Having a Division 1 registered nurse on site 24 hours a day, and appropriate staffing of enrolled nurses would be an appropriate resourcing minimum. We also recommend the upskilling of PCA nurses and increased training across the board. It is not enough to only have minimum staffing levels – staff should also be appropriately trained, with a minimum of a Certificate III or IV. Training should be continuous, with supplementary engagement, opportunities to upskill and clear pathways for career progression. Increased training around common conditions such as dementia is necessary to ensure care staff are equipped with the appropriate knowledge to care for residents. Overall, we need more staff in aged care facilities and continual training to ensure the staff have the appropriate skills to look after our most vulnerable residents.

 

All caregivers need to be diligent, skilful and insightful, engaging with residents on a personal basis and fostering ongoing caring relationships. Having minimum staffing levels at facilities will mean that staff have the time and skills required to invest in creating these caring relationships to ensure residents receive the quality of care they deserve.

 

Recent studies show that over half of Australian aged care residents are in homes that have unacceptable staffing levels and that to raise the standards for all residents to receive a good level of staffing, an increase of 37.2% in staffing will be required. There are also further considerations when it comes to the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse residents, and staffing levels in regional and rural facilities.

 

We support the introduction of legislated minimum staff ratios, but this will only be effective if combined with enhanced training to give residents access to the highest quality care in line with requirements.

 

Do you or someone you know require an aged care solution? Contact us today and make an inquiry.

How My Care Path takes the stress out of aged care

couple discussing aged care

Making decisions around aged care is emotional, stressful and confusing. This is the first time I have had to navigate the aged care system, and I had no idea where to start. I tried Centrelink, but soon realised I may need another degree to understand the system. I have a young family, work full-time and my Dad has an aggressive form of dementia. While he is still largely independent, my mum is now his full-time carer. This process is overwhelming, as is the pressure to make the right decision for the person who has spent most of his life helping me make life’s big decisions. Fortunately for my mum and me, we were introduced to Dana and Jayne at My Care Path – a game-changer.

For my family, guidance from My Care Path has helped us navigate the aged care system. Their experience and expertise as aged care coordinators has significantly eased our stress, which has been compounded by Covid-19 and media attention surrounding the aged care system.

At our first meeting with My Care Path, we talked in detail about my dad: who he is, his likes and dislikes, his interests and hobbies, and of course his form of dementia. We were genuinely surprised by how much they knew and understood the disease, specifically his rare form of dementia. From there, they guided us through the financial side, including Centrelink, payment options and putting us in touch with a financial planner who specialises in aged care. They also processed forms for us, taking much of the logistical load off so we could focus on choosing a facility and caring for Dad.

The financial planner went through the finer details with us, including an audit of assets and a consideration of our circumstances. This meant that we could work out quickly what the financial situation would be for our family with the help of an expert. They took everything into account, including things we hadn’t considered, such as whether my mum should continue working, and how the financial side of aged care might impact other members of the family, such as my sister, who my mum also cares for. It moved beyond just the finances – My Care Path took a holistic approach, showing us what this decision would mean for the lifestyle and care arrangements of everyone involved.

My Care Path shortlisted facilities and accompanied us on-site tours. As a part of the initial briefing they spent a lot of time understanding who Dad is, so they knew it was important for him to feel at home, have access to a garden and the internet, space to walk and a place to have a red wine and watch sport. At each facility, we assessed whether there were other residents who were like him – many people, including me before this, assume that aged care is full of old, frail people, but my dad is very independent and young at heart, and we needed to make sure the place that becomes his home not only has the things he needs but also has neighbours he can form connections and become friends with.  My Care Path took all of this into account.

With My Care Path’s help, we have found a facility that we believe will suit my dad and his care requirements. There is a garden for him to maintain and space for family dinners with his kids and grandkids, and it’s close to my mum’s home. Continued family contact and connections are very important to us, and this facility ticks all the boxes for what Dad will need.

The next step will be the transition from our family home of 35 years to his new home. I am not sure I am ready for the next step, and we are not sure when it will be, but we do know it is inevitable, and we are now prepared.

Looking for an aged care facility for my dad has been an emotional and overwhelming experience. Having My Care Path to guide my family through the process has been a blessing. They have gone beyond just the logistics and finances, and have reassured us that if at any point we need to change the plan we can.  This is not set and forget – this is about giving my Dad the best life possible. My Care Path is flexible, honest and accommodating, and they have advocated for my dad and my family every step of the way, making sure that we find a solution that is in everyone’s best interest.

Knowing what I know now, I would never go through this process without an aged care coordinator like My Care Path. We seek experts in so many areas of our lives – surely how we see out the end of our lives is as important as all the other steps along the way.