SHE has one of the most important jobs in aged care in Australia but for Janet Anderson, who heads the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, it’s a welcome challenge and one for which she is well prepared.
The commissioner comes to the role with extensive experience in the provision of social services and with a career-long interest in health and aged care services; and she takes on a sector which is set for major changes in the coming months and years.
“I have a very strong commitment to ensuring that the care provided to people who are less able to care for themselves is as good as it can be and is delivering the best possible quality of life for vulnerable Australians,” she told The Senior.
With a budget of almost $300 million over four years, the new commission which began operations on January 1, has been described as a one-stop shop for aged care quality and safety, replacing the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. From January 2020, it will also incorporate the Department of Health’s aged care compliance responsibilities.
Among the commission’s roles is overseeing unannounced re-accreditation audits of aged care facilities which will more than triple in 2019 from 263 last year to nearly 900; and unannounced inspections, targeting particular standards, identified risk factors and complaints which are expected to rise to more than 3,000. It has already started employing additional senior compliance officers to manage the workload.
The commission’s other roles include investigating and resolving complaints by aged care recipients or their families, educating service providers and consumers and consumer engagement which involves working with consumers to help develop best-practice models for how providers should engage with aged care recipients.
It promises to be an explosive year for aged care in Australia as the Aged Care Royal Commission (which is separate from ACQSC) promises a warts and all investigation into the industry which despite a number of state and federal government inquiries has been plagued with evidence of the abuse and neglect of the vulnerable elderly.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the nation to brace itself for some “bruising information” to come of the inquiry.
Ms Anderson acknowledges the challenge faced by the industry she overseas.
”We have a population which is ageing. There is a greater proportion of the population in their 70s and indeed 80s and 90s and this is unprecedented in western society,” said Ms Anderson.
“We’ve not faced this challenge before and all manner of human services are having to shift their thinking and adjust to levels of demand.
“We also know that with increasing age comes the increasing likelihood of frailty, vulnerability and increasing disability.
“We have a population that in the main wants to stay at home for as long as possible and be supported in that environment as long as they can do it safely and with a reasonable quality of life. That’s why we have an increase in home care but we also have an increase in demand for nursing home services where an individual is no longer able to stay safely at home and needs to move to staffed care and the time of that move has changed. It used to be the case that nursing homes had a lot of people between the ages of 65 and 80 now more than half of nursing home residents are over the age of 85.”
Ms Anderson said the increasing age of nursing home residents also meant increasing frailty, increasing morbidity, more ailments, illnesses and chronic diseases.
“It’s putting nursing homes under different sorts of demands than have historically been the case, so we see a whole sector needing to make adjustments.
”The role of my commission is to ensure that providers are paying close attention, that as their care recipients change and become more dependent that their care response is still fit for the purpose and they are delivering quality care.”
To complain about home or residential aged care services or for more information: 1800-951-822 (free call), www.agedcarequality.gov.au