Decisions regarding aged care can be detrimental or life-changing. Spotting understaffing in aged care is a critical factor for the well-being of residents and must not be overlooked in the decision making process.
At Aged Care Ready, when looking at placement into aged care, “facility research” is conducted. This is where facilities are physically inspected and factors to do with the environment, safety, culture and care are looked at. But one of the most important factors of all is staffing.
Generally speaking, most Residential Aged Care Facilities run their days in routines, usually revolving around meal times and personal hygiene times.
“Given my experience in the sector, I intentionally schedule my facility tours at certain times of the day, knowing that there are likely to be the least amount of staff on shift,” says Naomi Anderson, Aged Care Ready Coordinator.
“The reasoning behind this? I want to know the worst case scenario. It’s all well and good seeing a facility at their best, with double the amount of staff on, but that’s not what I am interested in. I want to see staff and existing residents at times when there are the least amount of staff available to care for residents.”
It’s at this time Naomi looks at where the residents are – are they in their rooms, are they attending activities? How many staff can be seen? Can any be seen at all? Where are they all and what are they doing? Do they look frazzled or do they look like everything is under control?
According to Anderson, the biggest giveaway that understaffing is taking place is the morale of the staff.
“You can tell a lot by just stepping back and watching how the staff interact with visitors (do they say hello and smile?), families, residents (how is their approach to residents? Is it rushed or is it caring and attentive?) and with other staff (do they look upset/unsatisfied or are they being respectful of one another?),” says Anderson.
Now this may all seem like common sense. However, what is not common knowledge to the everyday person is that facilities receive additional government funding for every single person that is a permanent resident.
“The amount of money that the facility receives per person is dependent on their individual care needs. This funding is then used by the facility to provide care to its residents (namely, staffing). And although I don’t know the individual needs of each resident in the facility at the time of a tour, I have a pretty good idea of how much funding a facility should be receiving,” explains Naomi.
“I then compare these estimates to the rough costs of the staff that are on shift at the time. If there is a big disconnect, then this may not be a facility that we recommend for our clients. On the flip side, if there are more staff on than what the care needs would indicate, it shows that the facility has a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their residents,” continues Anderson.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no official ‘staff to resident ratio’ like there is in acute care, which is why it is so crucial to do your research.
“If I don’t consider there to be enough staff on shift when I take a tour, then the facility is not put forward as a recommendation,” confirms Anderson.
If you are looking into aged care for a loved one and don’t know where to start or are feeling overwhelmed by the process, the Aged Care Ready team are here to help.