When the new Charter of Aged Care Rights was circulated, a number of people, myself included, expressed concern that responsibilities had been overlooked.

I know a number of organisations pointed this out during the feedback period, but when the Charter came out without any obvious responsibilities attached I was a little confused. After all, as a consumer of services you have responsibilities as well as rights, don’t you?

But then the clouds cleared. The care recipients’ responsibilities have been incorporated into the User Rights Principles and are captured under the ‘security of tenure’ section. They have been further expanded in a booklet developed by the Department of Health which is freely available on their website.

The Commonwealth Government developed the Charter, focussing on the Rights in order to present a short, concise and easy to read document that highlights how care recipients can exercise their rights. The Charter is supported by a range of resources that helps people to understand the rights of Aged Care recipients. These resources also outline the responsibilities of an aged care consumer.

The responsibilities of care recipients are reasonably straightforward and include:

  • treating other people with respect
  • ensuring a safe environment for staff
  • providing relevant information to the provider
  • paying agreed fees

Treating others with respect

There is an expectation that care recipients, their carers, family and friends will be considerate of and treat staff and any other care recipients with respect. Their behaviours should not negatively impact on others.

This means that staff members should feel comfortable and free from abuse by the client or their family when providing care and support. It means the client behaves appropriately and considerately towards others, whether this is in a home care or residential setting, or even when participating in activities or excursions.

Ensuring a safe environment for staff

Staff who provide care and support in the home may be more vulnerable than those working in a centre or residential setting where there are more staff present. They often work alone and they have a right to feel safe while carrying out their duties.

This means that anything identified as a safety risk during a home safety check such as aggressive pets, dangerous chemicals or unsafe electrical equipment needs to be addressed by the client.

Under the amended ‘security of tenure’ section of the User Rights Principles, if a client deliberately place a staff member at risk or causes injury, they may have their service suspended or cancelled by the Approved Provider.

Providing relevant information to the provider

Assessors, while often good at observation, are not mind readers. They need the client or their carer to provide relevant information to be able to provide a quality service.

Care recipients need to disclose to the provider anything that might impact on the service and support staff. They need to ensure that they provide a full picture of their situation, their health status and their needs to allow the assessor to provide support in the way the client prefers. They need to tell the provider if they will be away at the usual time of service delivery, if they have a communicable disease that staff need to be aware of, if their family supports change and if they have any specific preferences or avoidances.

Paying agreed fees

All care recipients are responsible for paying agreed fees. This means that they need to advise the service provider if they are facing any difficulty in paying their fees and work with them in trying to come to an alternative arrangement.

This means that if a client deliberately cancels a direct debit arrangement that pays agreed fees, the provider can suspend or cancel their service unless an arrangement is made to backpay the unpaid fees.

Let’s see how these might play out in a remote setting.

Showing respect to staff and other care recipients means that even if Betty’s family have a long-standing feud with the family of Janet, a care worker, Betty can’t abuse Janet or harm her while she is doing her job at the aged care centre. Likewise, Suzie, Janet’s mother, who is also a client, can’t start an argument with Betty whilst they are both at the centre for day activities.

If William is going away for a Land Council meeting on Thursday and he won’t be back in the community until the following Monday, William needs to let the coordinator at the service know at least 48 hours before he goes away. This is the agreed timeframe highlighted in his care agreement and allows for his meals and services to be suspended, otherwise he will still be charged for the meal or service.

Sally has a gambling problem. She loves to play cards and as she can’t walk around easily anymore due to arthritis in her knees, it’s a social activity she enjoys with her friends and family.

Unfortunately, Sally often loses all her pension money while playing. To ensure that she doesn’t go hungry though, Sally has an arrangement with the Home Care service on her community as part of her Home Care Package to receive Meals on Wheels daily and pays a contribution towards the cost of the ingredients via a Centrepay deduction. One day, Sally walks into the Centrelink office and cancels her payment without advising the Home Care service provider. When the provider is alerted they advise Sally they will need to suspend or cancel her meals unless she can make an arrangement to repay outstanding fees.

So, what do the changes mean for service providers?

You will need to check over any documentation that you have that relates to the client rights and responsibilities. Perhaps your client agreement and your client information handbooks. Update these with the Charter and change the wording used where necessary. For example, if your documents make reference to the ‘client rights and responsibilities – Home Care', you’ll need to change this to the ‘Charter of Aged Care Rights'. If you included specific reference to client responsibilities you will need to amend these as well.

Take the time to work though the Charter of Aged Care Rights as well as discussing care recipient responsibilities with your staff. After all, they need to know and understand both the client’s rights and their own as they go about their work.

If you would like assistance with updating your documentation and / or policies and procedures to reflect both the new Aged Care Standards and the Charter of Aged Care Rights, drop us a line and let’s see what we can do for you.

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