All the aged care resident wanted was a shower when she had been incontinent but staff at the home could not understand her pleas because of a speech difficulty.
- Increase in aged-care complaints welcomed by Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, says it means more people feel they can raise their concerns
- Says number of complaints should be balanced against growing number of people (more than a million) receiving care
- Most common issue raised was about way medicine was administered and managed
The woman had three requests — one was as simple as preferring her food was served hot but with less gravy.
More seriously — she wanted staff to give her a full shower when she had suffered incontinence.
And she wished they could reposition her in her bed more frequently to keep her comfortable.
Her hearing and speech difficulties meant staff did not catch on when she tried to ask for these three changes.
Her son approached the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, who investigated and suggested a solution.
A board with pictures of care needs like showering and toileting that the woman could point to instead of trying to speak was the answer to the communication gap.
The woman and her son both said it improved her quality of life.
The aged-care home acknowledged it had not done enough to look after her and called in specialists to review the woman’s care.
Complaints up 20 per cent this year
The incident is one of 4,713 complaints received by the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner last financial year.
That is up 20 per cent on the previous year, but commissioner Rae Lamb welcomed the increase, saying it was a great result because it meant more people knew about the service and felt they could raise their concerns.
“I don’t consider that the rise in overall complaints to us shows deteriorating standards of care,” she said.
“Certainly we see instances where care, or the provision of information and communication with people receiving care and their families, has been poor.
“There are people who should complain who don’t.”
But she argued the number of complaints should be balanced against the fact more than a million people received aged care — mostly in their own homes — and that number was growing.
Most complaints (78 per cent) were about people in aged care homes.
The most common issues raised were about the way medicine was administered and managed, followed by measures to prevent falls or helping people recover who had suffered a fall.
The third-most common complaint was about personal or oral hygiene.
‘It is ok to complain’
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt also said he welcomed the news about more people complaining to the commissioner.
He said, “In a perfect world there would be no need” for the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
But he said he was committed to accountability, “because every older Australian who needs aged care support deserves a quality service that is safe and meets their individual requirements”.
The Government spends $17 million a year to fund the complaints service and to run an education service for consumer groups and service providers.
Ms Rae said she had challenged the aged care industry to talk more about complaints, describing them as a normal part of providing care and services.
“People need to know it is OK to complain and that when things go wrong, making a complaint can lead to improved care,” she said.
Ms Lamb said consumer confidence would be boosted if people knew more.