Aged care news highlights from the week ending 28 June 2020.
The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the aged care sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace and Critical Success Solutions.
Coronavirus / COVID-19 News
Health committee tones down aged care visitor restrictions
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, allied health professionals, hairdressers and children should now be allowed to enter residential aged care facilities according to updated national advice on visitor restrictions during COVID-19. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) also now recommends allowing spouses to visit residents for as long as they wish and permitting residents to leave the facility to attend small family gatherings. The AHPPC’s advice on residential aged care facilities, which was updated last week, eases some measures first announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison three months ago ahead of the original six-month term. The update is based on emerging evidence and given the current low levels of local transmission in Australia, the AHPPC said.
Resuming unannounced visits
In line with a COVIDSafe Australia guidance, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has re-commenced conducting unannounced visits to aged care services. While we have undertaken risk-based site visits throughout the pandemic, as a temporary measure from 16 March 2020 we introduced a short period of notice (less than 48 hours) prior to visiting a site to minimise infection risks to aged care consumers, aged care staff and our own employees. We have also undertaken a range of off-site monitoring activities on the basis of the Commission’s assessment of risk. All Commission staff entering an aged care service will provide evidence of having received a 2020 influenza vaccination. We will continue to undertake pre-screening of our staff before entering an aged care service as well as take steps to ensure our practices on site are compliant with infection control requirements. Further advice will be provided shortly on the next steps in relation to reaccreditation site audits at residential services.
COVID-19 - Staying Safe storyboards and user guides
To support the aged care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is developing a range of new storyboards that are designed to illustrate key behaviours and priority issues. The storyboards will be particularly helpful in supporting people whose English or literacy levels may be a barrier when it comes to accessing content relating to COVID-19 and are relevant to all providers and consumers, their families and representatives across the aged care sector.
Stakeholders call for aged care outbreak procedures
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, an aged care provider peak body is calling for the Federal Government to develop clear COVID-19 outbreak protocols that include the hospitalisation of infected residents. It is important for residents who test positive with COVID-19 be transferred to hospital to prevent a major outbreak in the facility and to give people the best possible chance of survival, said ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow. “We want to see protocols in place that clearly outline what should happen in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak, and we believe hospitalisation should be a key part of that process,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda. “Aged care homes are not intensive care units. It’s not what we are equipped to do,” Ms Sparrow said.
New figures reveal trends in Australia’s COVID-19 deaths
According to Aged Care Insite, new mortality data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that most people who died from COVID-19 had pre-existing conditions. The provisional mortality statistics showed that one-fifth of people who died from COVID-19 in Australia had hypertension, 15 per cent had dementia and 13 per cent had diabetes. Overall, just over two-thirds (68.5 per cent) of the deaths had at least one pre-existing chronic condition listed on the death certificate. Other common conditions were chronic lower respiratory disease and cancer (12 per cent each), ischaemic heart disease (9 per cent) and musculoskeletal conditions (7 per cent). Blood and lymph cancers were the most commonly certified cancer type among those deaths.
‘Like the plague’: ABC’s Four Corners finds mismanagement at the centre of Newmarch outbreak
According to Aged Care Insite, the ABC’s Four Corners program turned its attention to the Newmarch House COVID-19 outbreak and found mismanagement, poor infection control and a lack of communication with residents and families at the centre of the cluster which saw 19 people die. The episode, titled ‘Like the plague’, followed the outbreak from its first days, when a COVID-19-infected staff member worked six shifts, and over the course of the six-week saga. It documented the torment and heartache suffered by the families of residents trapped inside with little-to-no information provided about loved ones. Residents were “sitting there waiting to die” said the families, confined to their rooms with unanswered calls, cold and receiving little food or face to face contact.
Royal commission to resume, releases new paper on finance
According to Aged Care Insite, the Royal Commission into aged care has announced it will resume hearings next month after suspending proceeding dues to the pandemic. Proceedings were suspended on 20 March and the hearing which was due to take place – focusing on mental health, oral health and allied health care in aged care provision – will now take place on 15-17 July as the commission restarts. Melbourne Hearing 4 will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, royal commissioners and staff have continued to work on research and policy development and the commission released a paper coinciding with the restart announcement. Consultation paper 2 – Financing Aged Care, looks at several options for funding aged care into the future.
Royal Commission calling for public to have their say on future financing of aged care system – why we will need to pay more
According to the Donaldson Sisters, major news this week with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety not only announcing it would resume its schedule of hearings in July, but also releasing a new consultation paper on how Australia’s aged care system could be financed in the future. The paper – which runs to 54 pages – says the sector would need a “significant injection” of funding to achieve the need for “fundamental reform” outlined in the Royal Commission’s Interim Report last October. It puts forward three different approaches:
- Keeping the current system taxpayer-funded aged care with co-contributions from older Australians, potentially through a Medicare-style levy.
- A social insurance or superannuation-style model where individuals would make mandatory contributions to a fund that would then pay for their care later in life.
- A private aged care insurance scheme and other products such as lump sum annuities to pay for aged care costs.
- Importantly, the Commissioners say they are working off the basis that Federal funding for aged care services will likely to need to increase from its current level by 50% to 100% to meet the needs of our increasing older population and the demand for people to stay living at home as they age.
Pharmacy deal supports residents, program improvements
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, community pharmacies have signed off on a new agreement with the federal government which commits almost $100 million to medicine safety over the next year, with older Australians set to benefit. The $96.4 million covers medication management review and the quality use of medicines programs in residential aged care, home medicine reviews, and one-on-one in-pharmacy medication checks. These community pharmacy programs are likely to run unchanged next financial year but the agreement flags changes ahead. The Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA) increases investment in patient-focused pharmacy programs to $1.2 billion over five years, health minister Greg Hunt said.
Large on-site aged care pharmacist project underway
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, researchers are recruiting aged care homes for an Australian Capital Territory-wide study exploring the benefits of embedded pharmacists and the impact on resident hospitalisations. The University of Canberra is undertaking the three-year Integrating Pharmacists in Residential Aged Care Facilities study with a grant from ACT’s primary health network the Capital Health Network. The project, which has recruited 14 aged care facilities to date, aims to embed a pharmacist in health and care teams at every home in the ACT to improve the use of medication. The study follows a six-month pilot study at Goodwin Aged Care in 2017, which showed embedded pharmacists positively influenced medication use. Principal investigator Dr Sam Kosari said the project aimed to improve the quality use of medicines and reduce the number of residents going to hospital.
Some tips on minimising physical restraints - From the Chief Clinical Advisor, Dr Melanie Wroth
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has compiled this list of tips from the Chief Clinical Advisor, covering when bed-positioning and bed rails will constitute restraint.
A quality vision for aged care
The Department of Health has issued resources outlining the Aged Care Sector Committee's vision for quality aged care. They include an illustrated poster, a radial diagram poster, an infographic and an overview of the vision and how it supports quality in aged care.
Obesity in over-50s linked to dementia
According to Aged Care Insite, people in their 50s who are obese have a 31 per cent increased risk of dementia later in life compared with those of the same age with normal weight, a new study suggests. Scientists from University College London, who conducted the research, said this risk may be particularly high for women who have abdominal obesity. The researchers said the findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, suggest keeping body mass index under control could play a “significant role” in reducing the risk of dementia.
No significant developments this week.
Resources and Upcoming Events
New Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Resources – issued June 2020
The ACQSC has issued the following resources:
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Glossary: The Commission has produced a glossary of common terms to aid understanding of the aged care services sector. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and is provided as general information only.
Common questions you may want to ask residential aged care services about COVID-19: You, your friends and family have a right to know how your residential aged care service is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have developed some common questions that you can ask your service provider during this time.
Service Compliance Ratings Fact Sheet: The Department of Health, in partnership with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission), is introducing a service compliance rating system for residential aged care services. The rating system was developed in consultation with stakeholders, including senior Australians, their caregivers, aged care providers, and a range of peak bodies.
3rd Aged Care Workforce Forum – Developing a Customer Centric Aged Care Workforce – 23 June -2 July Online
According to the Healthcare Channel, Akolade’s 3rd Aged Care Workforce Forum has been strategically developed to aid in building effective strategies to develop and grow an efficient workforce to drive service quality delivery in aged care. 2020, and the Royal Commission is upon the industry. Let’s walk through with thought leaders the questions on everyone’s mind; how can we meet these new standards?
3rd Aged Care Tech Forum – 23 June -2 July Online
According to the Healthcare Channel, as the population of Australia ages, aged care facilities are under mounting pressure to provide superior services to customers in an increasingly competitive market. Service providers that succeed in the future will be those agile enough to harness the possibilities of new technologies and rapidly scale in order to meet new customer demands and attract government support. Technology has transformed the banking, airline, hotel, taxi, phone, photography and music industries, and now aged care needs to be disrupted.
Centre for Dementia Learning – two online courses available free until 30 June 2020
According to Australian Ageing Agenda, the Centre for Dementia Learning is committed to supporting staff in aged care and the aged care industry. This month, they are offering free education to help workers respond to changed behaviours and problem-solve challenges.
Flu vaccination poster
The Department of Health has issued this Flu Vaccination Poster. Residential aged care facilities may wish to display the attached poster at entrances, to alert anyone entering the facility of the flu vaccination requirements that came into effect on 1 May 2020.
Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line
According to The Department of Health, a new Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line has been set up to provide information, support and check on older Australians during the period of social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and the Older Person’s Advocacy Network have banded together to deliver this service with support from the Australian Government.
Senior Australians, their families and carers can freecall 1800 171 866 if they:
- would like to talk with someone about what COVID-19 means for them or a loved one
- are feeling lonely or distressed
- are caring for a someone and need some information or a listening ear about what COVID-19 means for your circumstances
- are worried about COVID-19 means for their usual aged care service
- are worried about a friend or family member living with dementia.
- are unable to access information on the internet and would like up-to-date advice.
Home care services providers can also use the number and dial option 1 to refer home care clients who would like a call from an independent organisation to check on their wellbeing.
The service will include outbound and inbound calls to provide contact, reassurance and practical advice on connecting to services to maximise social engagement and wellbeing whilst at home.
Resources on diverse population groups are now available for aged care staff
According to The Department of Health, The End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) website helps you to care for older Australians at the end of life. Our new diversity resources can help health workers and aged care staff to care for:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Care leavers
- Culturally and linguistically diverse people
- Financially or socially disadvantaged people
- People experiencing homelessness
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
- People living in rural and remote areas
- People with spirituality and faith beliefs
How people think about death, dying and end of life is different for each person. Learning about these differences can help you to provide good palliative care. Access these resources on the Diverse Population Groups page of the ELDAC website.
Calculating residential accommodation payments in a leap year
This year is a leap year, with 366 days instead of 365. The Department of Health has received queries from approved providers of residential care seeking advice on how to calculate a daily accommodation payment (DAP) in a leap year. The calculators specified in the Fees and Payments Principles 2014 (No. 2) (the Principles) refer to 365 days for working out:
- the DAP (or contribution) equivalent to a refundable accommodation deposit (RAD) (or contribution)
- the amount of interest on a RAD (or contribution) balance or accommodation bond balance.
- Even though 2020 is a leap year, residential care providers should continue to use 365 days when calculating DAP amounts and the interest payable on refunds of lump sum deposits. But please be aware that daily payments and daily contributions are payable for 366 days in 2020.
What Matters Most – New person centred care resources
According to The Department of Health, Palliative Care Australia, through a Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund grant, has launched a suite of resources to encourage early conversations about What Matters Most to older people, their care and their end of life preferences.
6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care
Issued by the Department of Health, this infographic outlines the 6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care.
Aged care video alert: Dignity of risk
According to Lexology, the concept of dignity of risk is not entirely new, however it now has a position of prominence in aged care with the Aged Care Quality Standards. In this video update, senior associate Dr Melanie Tan explains:
- What does dignity of risk mean?
- Where and when does dignity of risk apply?
- What is the duty of care within dignity of risk?