One of the concepts that should be embedded in the psyche of the management and delivery of aged care support is the idea of continuous improvement.
“A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward. – Harvey Mackay”
We know that things are constantly changing around us, with companies and individuals striving to do things better or more efficiently. Take vehicle manufacturers as an example – you will never see them resting on their laurels, ‘ok boys, we won best car of the year so let's take the next couple of years off from design modifications’. No, they bring out new ‘improved’ models each year. Sometimes these are just minor tweaks and at other times a whole new model. If they don’t improve something, they know they will be left behind, their product will become stale and old fashioned compared to the rest of the market place and market share will drop.
The Commonwealth Government has been applying the concept of continuous improvement to the aged care sector over a number of years. They have been listening to consumer groups and other stakeholders and continually seeking better ways to provide age care to a growing consumer base. This is why there have been a number of smaller changes as well as the introduction of the ‘new model’ of care, Consumer Directed Care.
Service providers need to be applying a similar mind-set of continuous improvement. Not only embracing the changes that are being introduced into the industry, but also looking at and reflecting on the way they as an organisation operate and provide direct care support. In the industry, we often talk about ‘Best Practice’, but should we actually be using the term ‘Better Practice’, the idea that we haven’t yet reached the pinnacle? The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) thinks so, with their ‘Better Practice’ conferences that are held around the country over the year. This year, their theme is ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and refers to the statement ‘Quality is our vision – we need to look within, before looking out.’
Most of the time I see organisations scurrying around ‘getting ready’ for an audit by the AACQA visitors. Client files are checked and care plans updated, client surveys are conducted, policies and procedures are reviewed, centres are scrubbed from top to bottom, the finance department finally releases funds to fix any outstanding maintenance issues and by the time the visitors arrive the coordinator and staff are exhausted.
Let’s change the scenario. Instead of racing around ‘fixing’ things at the last minute why not have a plan in place for continuous improvement. The AACQA website has a Home Care self-assessment tool. This can form the basis for your own regular internal assessments. Take one or two of the expected outcomes each month and review your practices and procedures. Any issues identified can then be addressed and policies and practices updated. This should be an activity undertaken by the whole organisation, as the coordinator will not be responsible for all aspects of quality assurance.
A downloadable copy of the Home Care self-assessment tool can be found at:
A number of small changes identified and implemented over a year will usually make it easier for all; management, care staff and clients, and don’t forget to log these changes in your quality improvement log.
I know many of you are already busy and may feel this is an added burden to your workload, however you are going to have to do this sometime. Do you want to review and reflect on a small amount of information on a regular basis, say on a Friday afternoon if that is a quiet time for you, or do you want to spend your weekends and evenings leading up to a quality review working at the aged care centre, trying to catch up?