Home | Opinion | The Aged Care Royal Commission report: what the Empire wants us to do and what we should really do

The Aged Care Royal Commission report: what the Empire wants us to do and what we should really do

We asked a range of people, “Will aged care be way better in 10 years after the huge effort and expense the Royal Commission report is asking of all Australians?” Why won’t anyone say yes?

Sure, they like bits of it… rights based, more funding, more home care packages, new skills, new protections, better governance. But we couldn’t find anyone who thought aged care would be something people loved, would support people to maximise this frail stage of life, and would have
the whole community valuing and participating in older people's lives just like we do in younger people's lives.

So, then we asked what they thought would really change aged care to be like this. Their answers surprised us in that they were so different to the report. They said someone needed to work with older people to become clearer about what kind of lives they really wanted to live, not what kind of
care they wanted. Then they told us that aged care leadership needed to be desperate to deliver on this. They wanted an aged care that the community could engage with, that younger Australians would want to contribute to, that was more likely to maximise this beautiful but challenging life

What we actually got was a report that’s asking us to fix the unfixable. And, it’s asking us to give our all to this. And goodness we are seeing this already. Everyone’s immersed in this and nothing else. New legislation, new rules, new processes, new accountabilities, new governance, new funding, new financing, new oversights, new politics. We will have time for nothing else. And that’s what the Empire wants.

So, what should we do?

Build the stuff that the Royal Commission didn’t ask for but might just deliver an aged care that people would love. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of people fixing the current system… they won’t miss you.

This stuff’s called transformation. Sectors are ready for transformation when they are not meeting customers’ expectations, stuck in old ways of doing things, not sustainable, not using new technologies and learnings, and have a leadership that’s not desperate to understand and meet
customer expectations. And this is certainly what the Royal Commission found. So why didn’t they recommend sector transformation as well as the 148 reform recommendations? We don’t think the Empire likes older people or wants us to transform aged care. So, we might have to do it ourselves.

What would happen to aged care if the Royal Commission had made its first recommendation that all aged care CEOs had to live in one of their facilities for a month. Could anyone seriously continue to offer the current service after that experience? So, transformation starts with transforming
leadership, not whacking it from Canberra.

Transformation then follows a path of co-design with older people, a new narrative of good frail lives, working in entrepreneurial ecosystems, establishing long term relationships with universities and others, learning from iterative service prototyping, applying technology to the narrative,
learning what the new 'good' looks like, new funding sources that build on people liking aged care, and always transforming leaders. Does this sound more likely to drive 'good' change, and more like what we signed up for?

It’s going to be hard for us to resist the glamour of the Empire’s bidding to spend the next 10 years totally immersed in the 148 reform recommendations. And those that do the Empire’s bidding will
certainly be rewarded for it. But do providers really think the rest of us are going to pay a levy for a lot more of the same?

So, why not resist? Why not exchange your conferences and overseas study trips that you can’t take anyway for a month in one of your facilities, join up with others doing the same, then engage in a very fresh and simpler transformation process?

Mike Rungie specialises in the intersection between good lives and aged care. He is a member of a number of boards and committees including ACFA, Every Age Counts, Global Centre for Modern Ageing and GAP Productive Ageing Committee.

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