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Aged Care Staff Ratios Scrutinised

Aged care staff ratios are under scrutiny at present, with the announcement of the Royal Commission into aged care.

The president of the AMA stated that doctors have concerns about the aged care staff ratios and the lack of resources in the aged care sector. Furthermore, the Queensland Nurses & Midwives’ Union noted that understaffing in aged care showed a significant increase in preventable deaths over the past 13 years.

Understaffing in Aged Care

Understaffing in residential aged care facilities puts residents at much greater risk of injury. With shorter staff ratios, the risk of injuries such as falls and pressure injuries increases.

Without better staff ratios in aged care homes as soon as possible, the crisis in aged care will continue.

In order to explain the extent of understaffing in residential aged care facilities, there’s a deal to consider. Often, residents are in receipt of well under the allocated hours of care each day. This is because there aren’t enough available staff to deliver the care. Of course, this isn’t everywhere. There are many residential aged care facilities that provide adequate hours of care for their residents. Mentionably aged care staff ratios aren’t meeting the mark in many other aged care homes though.

man getting out of wheelchair with nurse

Legislation: Staff Ratios

So, where are the laws that secure minimum staffing ratios in aged care? At present there’s no federal legislation surrounding staff ratios in aged care. This needs to change now with no further postponement. It’s unacceptable that so many devoted nurses and care staff in aged care fall short of meeting the care needs of residents because they just don’t have the time to deliver the care. The low staff ratios have the potential to put the residents at greater risk. The ratios also impact on the nurses and care staff.

Continuing on from this, there’s often only one Registered Nurse on a night duty, to care for too many residents for one person. There are reports of a skeleton staff throughout the night time in some facilities.

A recent study from Monash University indicated that nurses are at high risk of burning out because they’ve such an elevated work load. The reduction of risks would increase by increasing the aged care staff ratios for nurses to residents. Those preventable injuries such as pressure injuries would see a decrease, and the meeting of residents’ needs would be greater, and at a more efficient level.

To sum it up, there’s currently no legislation regarding staff ratios in aged care. The lack of nursing staff in aged care homes puts increasing pressure on the care staff as well.  Ensuring the residents’ protection and staff wellbeing by intervening now to secure aged care staff ratios is paramount.

Choosing the Right Aged Care Home

For older Australians who’re searching for an aged care home, consider asking questions regarding staff ratios before you decide to enter into an agreement with the aged care provider. Find out if there’s Registered Nurses at the facility 24/7, and be sure to ask how many enrolled and registered nurses there are at any one time.

Also, discuss the care staff with the facility. The care staff will usually be the people who answer your buzzers, and assist you with activities of daily living. You’ll likely want to know that there are enough carers to attend to your needs and the needs of other residents at any time.

Finally, it’s acceptable to ask about the skill set of the staff. Are the staff at the residential aged care facility experienced? Is there appropriate training to meet your care needs? This could be your new home  for some time. So, you’re allowed to make an informed decision regarding the care that you’ll receive. If you need support, family and friends are a good resource in helping you find an aged care home that’s right for you.

Moving on from this, if you require further assistance, consider engaging with an advocate to help you. For further information regarding advocacy, contact the Older Person’s Advocacy Network  on 1800 700 600.

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