Trust and confidence in the aged care sector has declined sharply this year, according to The Inside Aged Care Report 2021. Indeed the fourth annual report shows trust and confidence in the sector to be at the lowest levels seen since the initial study in 2018.
Not only are Australians increasingly fearful about accessing care for themselves or a loved one, there is limited confidence that the sector has the capacity to drive the improvements needed as highlighted in the royal commission final report earlier this year.
Concerningly, this low trust environment means proactive planning for ageing and care arrangements is being pushed into an increasingly distant future, meaning complex living and care decisions will more and more be made at a point of crisis.
The report sampled 2333 people across Australia in May/June 2021 and reveals that overall trust in the sector – despite building from 2018 to 2020 – has now collapsed to initial 2018 levels, with less than one in five Australians (19 per cent) agreeing that they have a high degree of trust in the aged care sector.
Just on 60 per cent of Australians disagree that the sector is well regulated, suggesting a strong community appetite for genuine and meaningful regulatory reform.
Among those receiving any form of aged care, the 2021 study shows that there are increasingly proportions of care recipients feeling ‘vulnerable’, ‘apprehensive’ and ‘sad’, and a corresponding decline over the same period in terms of care recipients feeling ‘cared for’ and ‘in control’.
With the royal commission final report highlighting major failings in institutionalised care, the Federal Government made significant provision for increased home care service funding in the most recent budget, yet the 2021 study findings show that overall satisfaction among family members receiving home care has deteriorated to 69 per cent being satisfied (a rating of 7 or higher out of 10) from the 75 per cent observed in 2020.
In terms of potential key drivers of reduced satisfaction for in-home care services, factors showing the largest decline since 2020 included ‘communication from the provider’ (59 per cent satisfied, down from 67 per cent), ‘the range of care/health services offers (59 per cent, down from 66 per cent) and ‘the ability to easily change care arrangements if needed’ (58 per cent, down from 67 per cent).
Faster Horses is the marketing insights agency that produces the report and its Director of Social & Government, James Wunsch, says the age care sector is being challenged on multiple fronts, and that increased investment alone will not improve public confidence and trust in the sector.
“There is no doubt that the cumulative impacts of the aged care royal commission’s final report and aged care residential facilities being impacted by COVID have eroded trust in the age care sector as a whole,” he says.
“The trust deficit is large and will have considerable impacts on the sector as people likely delay connection with a system requiring significant and wide-spread reform.”
But, Wunsch says, there is also opportunity for those age care providers who address these concerns head on.
“Our report shows those providers who can better tailor the age care experience to the individual needs of the user – including the ability to offer flexibility and to scale service provision as needs change – can likely differentiate their service offer and show they are genuinely heeding the royal commission’s findings in transforming their operations and service delivery experience for their clients.”
While the report shows most Australians are quite comfortable with new and emerging technologies to be leveraged in enhancing the quality of aged care service delivery, Wunsch says there are key concerns regarding both the need to ensure client privacy and dignity is maintained, and also the extent to which the sector as whole has the appropriate skills and training to deploy technology led aged care solutions in a way that can generate the tangible benefits envisioned.
LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney agrees that there is a need to invest in the people working in the sector.
“The latest Inside Aged Care report confirms the Australian community’s desire for our sector to embrace the challenges identified by the royal commission and to drive genuine reforms to ensure better care for older Australians – a pathway we are already taking action towards,” Rooney says.
“This report underscores the need for the sector to continue to invest in our people, ensuring they have the skills, tools and knowledge to deliver consistent, high quality care.
“As an industry we know our workers are our greatest asset and we must have workforce development strategies in place to both invest in existing staff and to grow the aged care workforce into the future.”
Rooney says government and providers of aged care must work in partnership.
“We cannot do this alone.
“We need to work in genuine partnership with Government on the design and the delivery of all of the reforms – otherwise we run the risk of failure.”
The report is available now here. A presentation of a selection of the key metrics will be delivered at the LASA National Congress between November 15 and 17.