Are more aged care homes putting residents at risk? Why we need to look behind the figures

That was the assessment of The Courier-Mail this week after it published new data from the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) that showed 36 homes had been flagged as a “serious risk” to residents during 2017/18. 

This is up from 22 the previous financial year and just two the year before. 

The rate of serious risk decisions has also jumped to 27 in the first half of 2017-18 from 22 in 2016-17. 

They are worrying figures – so we decided to ask the AACQA how they assess risk and why the rates have gone up. 

CEO Nick Ryan tells us their increased use of information and focus on risk has boosted the number of review audits they are doing and findings of non-compliance. 

As a result, they have had more occasions when the Agency has decided a facility has put a resident at risk. 

Changing the way serious risk is assessed 

A serious risk finding is given when the Agency finds that a home has placed the safety, health or wellbeing of a resident at serious risk by failing one or more of its 44 accreditation standards. 

But Mr Ryan points out that this finding isn’t an ongoing one – rather the home is given details of the finding so they can take urgent action to fix the problem. 

The Agency also continues to closely monitor the facility, including through unannounced visits. In some cases, their accreditation can be revoked or sanctions placed on them by the Department of Health. 

These findings are publicly available on their website too here. 

In total, Mr Ryan says there have been 39 serious risk findings from 1 July 2017 to 30 April 2018, while 165 homes have failed at least one accreditation standard. 

That represents six per cent of the 2,672 facilities in Australia. Of course, the ideal number would be zero, but they do show our regulators are being increasingly tough on providers who don’t meet standards – reassuring news for residents and their families

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Antonia Norris

Researcher and Contributor

Antonia has led the operations and growth of the agedcare101.com.au and villages.com.au within the DCM Group in Australia and New Zealand for several years. This has included the research and creation agedcare101 in 2016, the creation of the DCM Institute and Te Ara Institute, the joint contribution of Care & Living with Mercer (CaLM) and the TV series, The Best 30 Years, screened on NINE nationally.

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Journalist

Journalist

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.