Care complaints on the rise

Latest figures released by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission show complaints about home care services are on the rise. The figures have been released in a report that was a recommendation of the Royal Commission held between 2018-2021, to help highlight the importance of complaints in understanding older people’s experience of aged care.

National Seniors Australia CEO Chris Grice said the report highlighted that too many people were not getting the care they deserved.

“The report is like the canary in the coalmine, letting people know what’s happening in the system,” he said.

The most complaints about home care services were around the lack of consultation and communication and financial matters, particularly fees and charges.

People receiving home services were more likely to complain about the availability or quality of general house cleaning, being able to go shopping with a support worker, domestic assistance and the way providers communicated fees and charges.

In residential aged care complaints were received about medications, pain management, food quality, staffing levels and hygiene. More than 500 complaints were received about falls. The report acknowledged that badly managed pain relief caused poor sleep and poor mental health and diminished quality of life, and that medicine for some diseases was time-critical. Consequences of delayed or missed medications can be life threatening, the report said.

Two-thirds of aged care homes received at least one complaint in the past year, while one in five homes received more than one complaint and 205 homes received eight or more.

Family members were most likely to blow the whistle with more than half the complaints reported by family members.

While most complaints were resolved through early resolution the Commission has urged providers to up their game and improve their complaints handling process.

In the meantime changes are coming to the home care program for eligible seniors. The government’s new Support at Home program will be delivered in two stages to minimise disruption and ensure continuity of care for older people, according to federal Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells.

From 1 July 2025, Support at Home will replace the existing Home Care Packages (HCP) program and Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC) program.

The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which provides lower levels of support to older people to help them remain at home, will transition to the new program from 1 July 2027.

Ms Wells said the staged approach will give all CHSP providers time to change their business systems and adjust to new payment arrangements to avoid disruptions for their clients, she said.

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