Many of the services we are currently working with are feeling the pressure around the introduction of client fees. They are grappling with issues such as:
- Changing the organisational mindset on the need to collect aged care fees;
- What rate should be charged;
- How to identify unit costs; and
- How to get the message out to clients.
It is going to take time and energy to inform and educate clients; especially those who have not been asked to pay a fee in the past.
Changes take time to become accepted. If the introduction of client fees is new to your organisation then you should be educating consumers and their families about it now. The longer people have to think and talk about something the more it becomes accepted as the norm.
Introducing client fees to a service
A few months ago we were asked to assist an organisation where no fees had been collected – ever. This was creating a dilemma for the Finance Department as they realised that they needed to at least recover the cost of providing meals. So we did some brainstorming and came up with the following activities:
- An education session on the introduction of fees was held with the local care staff four months before client fees were introduced.
- We visited the clinic and alerted them to the impending changes which meant they could discuss this with people before referring them to the aged care service.
- Client brochures were developed – these described what sort of help people could get from the aged care service and mentioned there was a fee associated with the help. These brochures were then placed in prominent places around the community.
- As client assessments and care plans were updated, the coordinator informed clients that they would need to start paying for support in a few months time (a date that had been set by Council for the introduction).
These actions allowed clients and their families to become familiar with the concept of paying fees.
When we returned four months later to assist in signing up clients, there was less resistance to the idea of client fees. People had become accustomed to the idea that they could no longer get free meals. Of the 60 clients, only 5 clients decided to cancel their meal service, they said they would prefer to purchase and cook their own meal (or they had a family member who offered to do this for them). This may result in a situation where clients who are competent and supported by family can be taken off a service and take on more responsibility for their own care, one of the aims of wellness and re-ablement.
So my advice is to start talking about fees with your clients. Here are some other suggestions you could consider:
- Think about posters or brochures that can be used to start a conversation around fees.
- Developing a short video presentation or WhiteBoard presentation in the language of your clients that introduces fees, this can be played at your aged care centre.
- If you have a local radio station, take the opportunity to tell people about the changes over the airwaves, focus on the positives of paying fees such as improved services and more resources.
- Talk to community leaders such as your Indigenous Engagement Officer and take the message to community or local council meetings.
Don’t forget to use your local ambassadors, your staff. Talk to them about why the fees need to be introduced and the benefits to clients; as local people, they can disseminate the information more effectively on behalf of the service.
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