Consumer choice and dignity

Residential aged care in Australia developed from the hospital model – showering, mealtimes, wake and sleep times all to a schedule. This model supportcost containment, which is consistent with a substantially governmentfunded service. 

However, this model is incompatible with the Aged Care Quality Standards that came into force on 1 July 2019. Consumer dignity and choice are at the heart of the new standards and are consistent with the already established model of Consumer Directed Care (CDC).  

Choice means consumers must be presented alternatives and CDC means engaging with the consumer to design and chose the servicesand pricesthey will receive.  

While this is different it’s not revolutionary. We see this in airlines, hotels, holidays, restaurants and so many other everyday services we consume.  

Previously, providers were able to meet this expectation through an extra service model. However, the Department of Health no longer issues Extra Service status and with the 2014 legislative changesadditional services could be the watershed moment for improving the resident experience.  

The mini fridge experience

Mini fridges are a perfect illustration of the potential for additional services. A mini fridge gives the resident control over when they can enjoy a cool drink, their favourite food or a chilled piece of fruit without being dependent on staff. This truly promotes dignity and choice.  

A common opposition to providing this service is that it adds cost and exposes the Provider to food safety risks.    

However, under an additional services program, Providers are able to facilitate this service and cover the associated costs of: 

  • monitoring temperatures which can be done remotely through affordable wireless technology with the internet of things (IoT) and; 
  • checking and cleaning-out fridges. 

The mini fridge is just one example of how an additional services can improve the resident experience while ensuring sustainability for the Provider. 

Some other generally applicable items that can be included in your additional services offer include: 

  • King single beds: most residents will be used to a double or queen-sized bed at home. This means when they see that single medical bed it looks anything but appealing. Providing an option to have a king single immediately makes a room more appealing. 
  • Coffee facilities: while most residents prefer tea, when we have guests to our home, we tend to offer them tea or coffee, but not instant coffee. Empowering your residents with the option to offer their visitors coffee is another way that to make the facility their home. 
  • Bedroom entertaining: would you be comfortable entertaining your guests in your bedroom? I suspect not. Does your facility give your residents the option to have their own space to entertain visitors or to celebrate special occasions? 

So much more, for a little more

These are just four of the over 150 additional service offers we have identified you can offer your residents  

With such a huge array of choice it’s not practicable to charge residents for every individual vice they use. This is why we recommend providers use the show bag or subscription approach 

In this model, additional services are packaged, with residents having access to a suite of services for a fixed subscription fee. Just like the show bag, utilising a few items recovers the cost of the package and residents have the option to use more services to obtain even more value. 

We find its better to discuss and agree on additional services when a resident is moving in, sometimes it’s a family member who might like to give their loved one a little extra by contributing to the cost.  

In my experience, providers have been slow to establish additional service offerings. They frequently cite concerns that residents are either unable or unwilling to pay the fee.   

Speaking at a recent industry conference, I asked the crowd to put their hand up if “they refuse to fly Jetstar”and at least 20 per cent of the attendees raised their hands 

In fact, according to Virgin Atlantic, their premium economy is “the most popular cabin on the plane. It sells out first and fills up first because it’s such an affordable piece of luxury”.  

If people are willing to pay for additional services on a flight to improve their experience, you can be sure that this translates to residential aged care. The key is to design a services package appropriate to the residents and their expectations with pricing that represent value. 

In a CDC world, our view is that additional services will be a major part in providing choice and dignity to the resident experience, which is win-win for both resident and provider.   

This article was originally published for Australian Ageing Agenda’s Jul/Aug 2019 Edition

To find out more about how we can help you, please contact James Saunders on 02 9239 9004.

James Saunders
Operations Consultant