How we fund aged care has been a hot topic, and the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) saw changes within the industry – some for the good and some for the worst.
When we think of lifestyle and leisure coordination in aged care, we think of bingo, excursions and happy hour but this role is crucial to the holistic well-being of residents, helping them to maintain cognition, mobility and quality of life, as well as offers valuable opportunities to socialise with others.
However, workers in the field have been flagging their concerns about the prioritisation of lifestyle and leisure services and the importance it plays in the aged care sector.
Renee Smith, President of the Australian Recreational Therapy Association (ARTA) has said that following the implementation of the AN-ACC funding model, less emphasis has been put on providing quality leisure and lifestyle programs by skilled staff trained in the area.
She said ARTA has been informed by both members and non-members alike that in some facilities, staffing hours have been reduced in leisure and lifestyle since the introduction of 200 care minutes mandate, with these employees being directed into personal care roles, retraining to be Assistants in Nursing (AIN) or being made redundant from their lifestyle and recreation roles.
ARTA has concerns that quality programs will be reduced or stopped due to the Commission only counting nursing care in the 200 mandated minutes.
The findings from The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety saw several recommendations made, with recommendation 86 identifying the need to increase the amount of direct care time delivered in residential aged care. They identified nursing staffing levels as vital to the quality of care that older Australians receive and thus, the 200 minutes of care per resident per day was specifically dedicated to nursing care.
“[There is] concern that this simplistic view disregards the knowledge and skill of other health professions; contribution to health, wellness, and quality of life in residential care,” Ms Smith told HelloCare.
Melissa, a lifestyle assistant and a member of our Aged Care Workers Support Group on Facebook, expressed how disheartened she was to have her rostered Christmas Day shift taken off her and that her role was undervalued.
“I feel very saddened that we are considered important and essential until it comes down to money,” she wrote.
“I know I make a difference, yet have just been told that I won’t be working my rostered day on Christmas Day. I mean seriously, Christmas Day.
ARTA has since contacted Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, who is said to have recognised its concerns, the importance of leisure and lifestyle staff, and that providers are still obliged to fund this area of aged care.
“I would like to acknowledge the important role of leisure and lifestyle staff in supporting resident’s social, cultural, spiritual, cognitive, emotional, and physical needs by providing individual visits, small and large group activities, community engagement and outings,” she wrote to the organisation.
“While there is no mandatory minimum time requirement for recreational therapists, leisure, and lifestyle staff, providers are still required to deliver these services appropriate to each person’s needs and preferences to meet their responsibilities under the current Aged Care Act 1997 including to meet the Aged Care Quality Standards.”
Ms Wells told the organisation things are continually being reviewed and discussed and providers not delivering the required lifestyle and recreation services may be subject to regulatory action by The Commission.
Ms Smith encourages consumers and loved ones with concerns about a provider not meeting this Standard or the reduction in lifestyle and recreation services to make a complaint with the Commission.