Confidence in aged care system is sliding, warns consultancy

13 September 2020 Consultancy.com.au

A new survey from market research and consulting firm Fifth Dimension has revealed that residential aged care in Australia has been problematic during the Covid-19 crisis, to the extent that more than half of those who have a loved one in care are considering different arrangements.  

Fifth Dimension surveyed 1,000 people across Australia between the end of July and the start of August, to gauge how aged care in the country fared under the crisis. No doubt, care homes have been among the most prominent news features since the pandemic started, as occupants are among the most vulnerable groups to catch and succumb to the infection.

The report highlights that there have been more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases in residential aged care homes, and more than 160 deaths. The situation has understandably posed unprecedented challenges, and while the healthcare system was reportedly prepared for the crisis, the aged care system appears to have failed on many counts.Confidence in aged care system is sliding, warns consultancyIn fact, well over 50% of respondents to Fifth Dimension’s survey revealed that they had lost confidence in Australia’s aged care system. An even larger share are considering taking their loved ones out of care homes, while a third of this group is thinking of doing so permanently. Nearly two-thirds of those who were planning to move someone into aged care over the next half a decade have changed these plans. 

The loss of faith in aged care is overwhelming, and can be chalked up to a number of factors. The volume of infections is one, although the rapid and pervasive effect of Covid-19 left many surprised and lacking the capacity to keep things in control.

That being said, respondents highlighted the structural issues with aged care that have been exposed by the crisis. For instance, the fact that each care worker was working in several elderly homes could have been a significant contributor to the high infection rate. More than a third of respondents think so, and most blame the structural “casualisation of the workforce” for this scenario.

Care homes are understaffed, which means that the same carers work across multiple homes, and as a result each resident gets less attention. A quarter of all respondents reported this to be a problem. A low ratio of carers to residents has health risks for one, while also leaving aged occupants feeling lonely.

In fact, of the people who have loved ones in care homes, nearly a quarter told the researchers that their friend/relative’s mental health deteriorated during the crisis. As a result, respondents believe that structural deficiencies accentuated the mental and physical impact of the crisis, and most blame the government for this.

According to Fifth Dimension, nearly 50% of all Australians felt the government’s support for aged care was inadequate. Owner and Managing Director at the firm Lyndall Spooner highlighted that now is the time for the government and other stakeholders to act, and improve the aged care structures in Australia.

“We need to re-think the aged care model and be more creative and innovative with ways in which we can support families to care for the elderly – and not wait until the pandemic has completely eroded what faith we have left in the system,” she said.


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