Rebuilding community trust in Australian aged care

Jun 20, 2022 | Australian Aged Care

It hasn’t been easy for Australian aged care providers. Trust in Australian aged care is at a low, with less than one in five Australians trusting the aged care sector. Covid management and the death toll along with general issues with Covid access has created issues. This is on top of the Royal Commission into Aged Care’s final report. You only have to Google articles related to ageing to see trust in Australian aged care would be difficult with the amount of negative media it receives.

Put this together with ageism and ableism, and the perceptions about care and care providers in Australia are definitely much lower than warranted. This increases stress on dedicated staff while also limiting the options of older Australians. Many of whom may avoid aged care for too long, limiting their options. This could even further damage their impression as they wait for access and lose the ability to choose an aged care experience that suits their needs.

We don’t want to be in a position where such a vital service to the Australian community continues to struggle with image-related problems. Beyond the implementation of the recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission in a timely fashion, there are other options available.

Here’s some of the ways we can all rebuild community trust in Australian aged care.

Be incredibly transparent

When it comes to trust, nothing beats transparency. This is your opportunity to ensure that what you say matches how you act. And when you mean what you say, you build trust.

When it comes to building trust in Australian aged care scenarios, transparency means:

  • Listening to potential clients and their families and allaying their concerns
  • Disclosing prices and costs in such a way as to remove any misconceptions or concerns about hidden charges
  • Assessing the person in front of you in an honest way – and letting them know if your aged care service or facility is the right one for their needs
  • Disclosing the available options during the various stages of care
  • Answering questions in a timely fashion. And using plain English, not legalise and industry speak, to do so
  • Making a commitment to communicating early and often with all potential and existing clients as well as their loved ones
  • Welcoming people with open arms. Include volunteer programs, open days and community engagement events as part of how you interact with the public at large

Improving transparency reduces the chance for misinformation and miscommunication that can damage the relationship.

Greet the elephant in the room

Trust in Australian aged care has had a tough time because we’ve seen tough times. Ignore the necessity for the recommendations of Royal Commission at your peril!

trust is spelled out in scrabble tiles to signify trust in australian aged care

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

However, you don’t have to tiptoe around an issue or feel shame over past problems and behaviours. The best way forward isn’t pretending that the public doesn’t have concerns – or that some of these concerns have been valid and validated.

At ExSitu, we often plumb the depths of issues within aged care and end-of-life precisely because we know pretending otherwise would be an insult to industry professionals. The same is true of the aged care client and their family.

People read the news. They talk amongst themselves. The more they read and talk, the more they focus on the problems and the past.

To bring people forward, we have to be willing to have frank, open and honest discussions about aged care practices and problems. If we’re going to ask for trust in Australian aged care, we have to earn it.

How do you greet the elephant in the room when dealing with trust in Australian aged care?

  • Know your position as a provider of services in aged care before you discuss them. This includes understanding the legal, social and community-based concerns in tandem
  • Recognise the difference between where the aged care services and facilities were prior to major events such as Covid and the Royal Commission to now
  • Acknowledge the lessons learned were extremely hard. But that they delivered the opportunity for a new, customised and values based aged care experience that is safer, more personalised and superior
  • Walk the walk. Tackle issues such as safety, health, nutrition, enrichment and care and speak about them openly and honestly
  • Understand what you have done in your business model, with staffing, client enrichment, mental health and physical health initiatives matters to the people outside the aged care tent. And share these improvements with pride
  • Lean in on contrition and empathy. Be approachable and open over cold and professional. Own your mistakes and move forward in a transparent way
  • Create community over competition. The Australian public doesn’t see different aged care vendors and service providers as distinct. They see us as an industry, and if one falls, we all fall. Don’t throw other suppliers under the bus. And build a sense of connection and friendship. Especially when it comes to solving some of our trickier issues.

Most of all, be brave and talk about the issues that make you uncomfortable. This may sound counter intuitive. But in a world where people are already talking on the online and offline street corner anyway, you short suit your ability to influence change if you’re not actively talking about it as it occurs. That includes the bumpy, lumpy bits.

Whether you are addressing changes to palliative care, inclusion in aged care with Indigenous or LGBTQIA+ communities, addressing general issues or talking about the lasting impacts of Covid and the Royal Commission, it matters to audience. And that means it needs to matter to you, too.

Empower your staff

Your best tool against a negative public perception is the experience your current clients and their families have. Trust in Australian aged care can be rebuilt, as long as you give staff the opportunity to do their best work.

We know this is an industry that does a heck of a lot with extraordinarily little. It’s important to recognise that in service provision in all areas.

When it comes to empowering your staff, it helps to:

  • Make space for carers to care. A thinking, feeling, person-centred care experience is going to be infinitely more effective if it comes from staff that can stop and care. That means providing good ratios of frontline care staff
  • Invest in your staff and their development. Happy staff that have the correct level of challenge within their working day (i.e., not bored but not taxed either) make all the difference to any kind of workplace. Giving your staff the opportunity to learn new skills and shine their existing ones can help enhance their connection to work
  • Allow people to level up. Look for the opportunity to promote people who show merit and ability. That way, you can continue the knowledge growth and relationship building within centres and across services without high attrition rates
  • Pay them well and treat them with respect. Profitability and performance are found in more places than the balance sheets. It’s also seen in efficiency, client satisfaction and through reducing the cost of training through retention
  • Automate and innovate. This not only makes the working lives of your staff easier, but it also signals you are progressive and intelligent in the way you deliver care
  • Give a voice to your staff- and listen when they use it. Trust in Australian aged care has to come from staff trusting the organisations that employ them. if you can lead by example, you receive greater trust with the prospective and existing clients.

Look to actively promote autonomy, experience and a sense of wellbeing by offering it to your workforce. Providing space for great care to happen means great care will occur.

Want to work with ExSitu to rebuild trust?

We’re available to help train your staff to provide a care plan experience that helps clients feel heard and valued. Stretching across all kinds of care scenarios including ageing in place, end-of-life, in-home care, residential care, inclusive care for the Indigenous, LGBTQIA+ and Disability communities, we can help you build an individual care experience that provides a positive and supportive care experience your clients and their families will remember.

Curious to know more? Contact ExSitu today.

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