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How to measure ‘quality of care’ in aged care homes and home care?


If you were to believe the media a large proportion of the 300,000 people who work in care of the elderly are basically uncaring. They go to work, go through the motions of ‘caring’, and go home without another thought for the residents.

This perception is actually created by the media with headlines like “Aged-care providers should air dirty laundry: complaints commissioner” that appeared in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald this week.

Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb
Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb

The story refers to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb, advocating that aged care operators should publish on their websites and on their premises all the complaints they receive and their responses – so consumers are informed on the quality of care being delivered.

The newspapers asks readers to email in their complaints so the reporters can investigate them and write more stories.

Rae Lamb does point also out the reality – she received 4,500 complaints over 12 months from 1.3 million care clients being served. She acknowledges this is “relatively small”.

That is an understatement. It is 0.3 per cent!

How do you measure ‘quality’?

Measuring ‘quality’ in aged care is a minefield. The government sets the funding of which 70 per cent is taken up in wages. If funding is limited, the number of people to provide care is limited. In an aged care home, according to accountants StewartBrown, the average care a resident receives is 2.96 hours of personal attention a day.

If we want more, somebody has to pay for it. The government or the family. Will families freely pay extra? Not always.

Aged care is a highly emotional area and often confronting, including for the family. Often words are said and expectations raised which are difficult to pull back from. This is understandable.

The fact that only 4,500 complaints were received in this challenging environment is in fact testament to the people who work in the sector. And also for most clients who see both the good work done and the circumstances people have to work under.

Everybody wants zero complaints and 100 per cent compliments. That is what close to 100 per cent of all staff in aged care work towards – because let’s face it, in Australia they could find employment in an easier environment and for considerably higher pay.

Hopefully the media will consider the 300,000 people who go to work every day (and night) to look after our mums and dads when writing the next article.

Chris Baynes is a columnist and publisher of Frank & Earnest. He is also the publisher of, the leading national directory of retirement villages and aged care services in Australia.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I feel the author is being very naive in thinking that this is a cohort of people who are readily able to complain when they do not receive appropriate care. This is a group that not only come from a generation where complaining to government was not the norm but also are often incapable of complaining due to dementia and other high care needs. this is why they are requiring care in the first place. It is widely accepted that elder abuse is under reported. the Minister has recently been quoted as stating that up to 40% of nursing home residents do not receive visitors. Add these 2 factors together- vulnerable people unable to speak for themselves and having no-one to speak for them, what is actually reported is the tip of the iceberg.

    • Totally agree with Yvonne, and given the recent exposure of the disaster that is Australian aged care, the above article really is a joke.

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