Changes to the information the Government collects for the new aged care Star Ratings are on the way after it announced updates to its Consumer Experience Interviews with residents, following public feedback.
As a result, the Consumer Experience Interviews will be relaunched in February as ‘Residents’ Experience Surveys’, with alterations to the list of 14 pre-set questions. The new questions have not been released publicly yet.
Last year, the survey included simple questions such as ‘Do you like the food here?’, ‘Are staff kind and caring?’ and ‘Do staff know what they are doing?’.
But after the first round of interviews, there were reports that residents felt rushed and were left feeling distressed.
With the groundwork now laid for the star ratings system, it is expected that tweaks and improvements will be made to it over the next 12 months.
The aged care star ratings went public last December in a controversial launch as some aged care providers criticised the ratings they received – stating they were inaccurate.
Just 1% of aged care homes in Australia received a five-star rating, drawing additional media attention.
While there have been past concerns regarding the urgent interview process, Older Persons Advocacy Network Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Gear said they have received positive feedback from aged care residents who feel they have had their voices heard.
“Residents do appreciate that the interviews are independent and they have independent assessors coming in to talk about this,” said Mr Gear.
“Sometimes surveys are done by providers themselves or there are public discussions where people feel there might be retribution or an impact on their care if they give feedback that’s not all positive.
“Here there is a real focus on making sure it’s the resident’s voice being heard, not necessarily the provider’s voice or even a family member’s voice.
“So wherever possible, even if someone has fluctuating cognition, [independent assessors] will engage with the person and we know that speaking to the person and hearing their perspective is a really appropriate way to provide supported decision-making.”
These changes to the Consumer Experience Interviews are a positive sign for Mr Gear, who said he was pleased to see resident feedback has been acknowledged ahead of the next round of interviews.
“These surveys are absolutely essential to hear the voices of older people and to know what their lived experiences in residential aged care are,” said Mr Gear.
“They act as an indicator for aged care providers so they know what changes and improvements need to be made to provide the best experience for all older residents.”
Mr Gear welcomed the addition of more opportunities for residents to elaborate on their responses, while he approved of a new question asking whether residents would recommend their aged care provider.
During the first round of the annual resident interviews, at least 10% of residents in every aged care home participated. Altogether, approximately 30,000 residents were anonymously surveyed.
The next round of Star Rating resident interviews are set to begin in February, with 20% of aged care residents set to be interviewed.
As these ratings are one of four key areas that contribute to an aged care home’s overall star rating, Mr Gear said OPAN would like to see a higher percentage of residents surveyed as well as surveys to occur more than once a year to better reflect changing conditions within aged care facilities.
“This is a point-in-time measure, hence, why we need more frequent engagement with residents and families around their experience,” said Mr Gear.
“So while these are high-level questions, providers should understand what the responses to each question mean and how that’s pointing to something they may need to look at within their service and dig deeper into.”
If you would like to learn more about your opportunities to provide feedback on aged care services, you can register for an upcoming OPAN webinar on participating in aged care reform.