Aug 09, 2019

The 5 most common complaints in aged care


The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has revealed which areas of aged care generate the highest number of complaints, with medication management again coming out on top.

When families make the difficult decision to place a loved one into residential aged care, they expect the person to be treated with dignity and respect, and that they will receive the expert care and attention they need.

But as we read too often in the media, especially recently during the royal commission hearings, residents sometimes don’t receive the care we would expect. When things go wrong, the consequences can be heartbreaking and sometimes catastrophic, not only for the older person themselves, but also for families, and also often for staff.

In the royal commission’s hearings, it has been noted on a number of occasions how important it is that families can make a complaint to management, and have their complaint listened to and acted upon. 

It’s usually only when the complaints process breaks down or is ineffective that the matter is escalated to the national quality regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

In its latest report, the commission has revealed it received 1,633 complaints between January and March 2019.

So which areas of aged care do users complain about the most?

1. Medication management

The commission received 235 complaints about medication management over the three-month period.

Managing medication is a core component of aged care. Medication is frequently used, and when it is prescribed or administered incorrectly, the consequences can be extremely serious. 

According to a survey of more than 700 members by the Nurses and Midwifery Federation of NSW, 83 per cent of nurses have witnessed a medication error in residential aged care.

A report by the University of South Australia states that almost all – 98 per cent – of aged care residents have experienced a medication-related problem. The same report states that 17 per cent of unplanned hospital admissions by people living in residential aged care are caused by being given an inappropriate medicine.

According to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, medication errors cost Australia more than $1.2 billion every year.

Hopefully, now that medical records are being centrally stored in a single location on My Health Records, fewer medication problems will arise in aged care facilities.

2. Fall prevention and management

The commission received 164 complaints about falls prevention and management between January and March 2019.

Around 88 per cent of all injuries that occur in aged care facilities are the result of falls, according to Monash University. The figure is slightly higher for those living with dementia.

“Falls prevention and post-fall management should remain the main focus of injury prevention efforts in residential aged care,” the university’s Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit has written.

3. Personnel number / ratio

The commission received 157 complaints about personnel numbers and staff ratios.

One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from our readers who work in aged care is that there aren’t enough staff employed in their facility. Staff are rushed, and often feel they are not doing all they wish they could for residents.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has had a longstanding recommendation that staff ratios be mandated, and Rebakkah Sharkie has a bill before parliament calling for transparency around staffing ratios. 

The royal commission may well make a recommendation around this hotly debated area of aged care in its final report.

4. Personnel behaviour / conduct

The commission received 137 complaints about staff conduct.

It is a sad reflection on the industry that we hear so often about aged care staff being are either too busy, not properly experienced or skilled, or simply without the empathy to care properly for the residents in their care.

But it’s also worth remembering that while staff conduct is a common area for complaints in aged care, there are hundreds of thousands of aged care workers all around the country doing an amazing job every single day.

5. Continence management

The commission received 115 complaints about the continence management of their loved one.

Approximately 77 per cent of aged care residents are affected by incontinence and 40-60 per cent wet the bed at night, according to the Continence Foundation of Australia.

Incontinence should be regularly assessed and managed. If the home’s incontinence routine does not suit the individual, staff should accommodate the person’s needs.

Have you experienced any of these problems in your dealings with aged care facilities? Share your thoughts with us.

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  1. lots of medication error is caused by potion packed medication for consumers and not individual wedster packed medication.Im guessing its cheaper with potion pack

  2. Very good article. I find that the resident/carer ratio is inadequate. I like to go home at the end of the day knowing that I have attended to ALL of the residents. I always give the best I have. I don’t have enough time to spend with the resident but the time I do have I like to make the most of it. Example. Giving them a beautiful shower lotions and dressing them tenderly. Talking with them, listening to them giving them a hug and smiling. I find that being understaffed just snowballs everything. It makes me feel inadequate and sad. With that being said, I plan to leave residential care and work at home care or stock shelves at Bunnings.
    Thanks for any feedback on this ratio subject.

  3. A great article, thank you for sharing. In our company (aged care placements), we are always following up with our families after placement into care. These issues above often come up but another one that is a regular too is communication – timely communication. Just staying regularly in touch with families, using all available methods to keep them updated and part of the care process is what many of our families often will say they wish there was more of.

  4. Unfortunately its too late for my mum who died prematurely at 64 a result of mismanaged medication and incorrect notations on the system. Whilst the home admitted their mistakes and apolpgised after i lodged a complaint, nothing else happened and

  5. I hope the staff resident ratio will be sorted soon, I am a registered nurse and I face this issue daily, no one seems to give any attention to our worries, neither the managing authorities nor the government.

  6. I worked in Aged Care home as a cleaner for a period of 5 years (worked in the corporate sector until retirement). I was glad to leave Aged care, though I felt bad leaving the residents. Worked on average 1/2 hr. to 3/4 hr. unpaid overrtime each shift and was run off my feet. I am not a lazy person and a multi-tasker but what was expected in timeframe alloocated was ridiculous. One wasted their time speaking with management as they were not interested and were also under pressure from Head Office management – everything was about profit, profit.

    Due to lack of hours a lot of work was not carried out by some staff.

    – Beds not changed weekly
    – Toilets not cleaned ….. filthy at base
    – Bins not emptied causing uriine stench
    – Vacuuming rooms, etc. not done regularly
    – Faeces on floor not always picked up when PC’s were in a room, but left for cleaner to action next day.
    – Dumping faeces/urine soaked towelsl etc. in Laundry (not scraped off and put in tubs for soaking) for cleaner to do next day
    – Old flowers not disgarded but left until water smelled.

    Could go on and on. I was disgusted with what I experienced.

    All I know is that I would not like to go into Aged Care unless I had a fortune (that’s what it would cost) to be treated with some respect and epathy.

    it’s easy to have a “Mission Statement”, but it is just words AND mean little when management is only interested in making a Profit -the BIGGER the BETTER. Acually that should be their “Mission Statement”!!

    I was disgusted with what I seen and most certainly don’t look forward to going nlhy

  7. Now that the commission has handed its report, where are the changes?
    My daughter is a carer at Allity in Hackham West SA, the owner of the aged care centre just bought a new microwave, there was one old one in the staff room, he left that one and added a new one and replace a set of old chairs in the staff room THAT’S IT!

    There are staff shortages every single day, staff don’t come to work and management don’t replace them.

    Then family members come and put the blame on the carers for not doing their job? How could day when they are so short staffed EVERY DAY?

    The Royal Commission was just a political stunt by Scotty from marketing, just to make himself look like he was doing something. All he ended up doing was give more money to the providers that kept most of the money and did next to nothing to improve the aged care centres.

    Please excuse I need to go and throw up.

  8. Not giving me appropriate incontinence pants.
    They give me M0 pants when I need M1 pants. They say I can only have 3 pairs when I need more.

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