Aged Care Homes and workers in Australia exist in a regulated setting with a responsibility to care for their residents. This duty of care ensures they must not neglect or cause harm to the people under their supervision.
However, there may be instances when the duty of care is breached. In this article, we will explain the concept of duty of care for Aged Care and what to do if your provider has breached their duty of care.
What is duty of care?
Duty of care is a moral and legal obligation to ensure that no harm or injury is caused to another person or their property. In Aged Care, this means providing essential support to residents to maintain their wellbeing and health. Examples of duty of care in Aged Care include:
- Monitoring and responding to a resident’s health and wellbeing
- Ensuring a safe, well-maintained, supportive environment in an Aged Care Home
- Keeping unsafe objects or tools out of harm’s way
- Communicating information to senior’s family and carers.
Workers and nurses in Aged Care should not cause foreseeable injury or harm, as this will be considered a breach of their duty of care.
Why duty of care matters in Aged Care
All older Australians are entitled to quality care, and it’s their right to be treated with dignity and respect. Although health and safety are prioritised in Aged Care, it is not the only responsibility of Aged Care providers.
The Charter of Aged Care Rights helps residents, carers, and their families better understand the scope of care and services that should be expected from Aged Care Homes. In the charter, residents and their families have a right to:
- Safe and high-quality care and services
- Be treated with dignity and respect
- Have their identity, culture and diversity valued and supported
- Live without abuse and neglect
- Be informed about their care and services in a way they understand
- Access all information about themselves, including information about their rights, care, and services
- Have control over, and make choices about their care and personal and social life, including where it involves personal risk
- Have control over, and make decisions about, the personal aspects of their daily life, financial affairs, and possessions
- Their independence
- Be listened to and understood
- Have a person of their choice, including an aged care advocate, support them or speak on their behalf
- Complain free from reprisal, and have their complaints dealt with fairly and promptly
- Personal privacy and having their personal information protected
- Exercise their rights without it adversely affecting the way they are treated.
Is duty of care a legal requirement?
Aged Care workers are legally responsible under the Aged Care Act 1997 to not cause harm or injury to another person that could be reasonably foreseen. This requires the management of providers to employ capable workers, ensure a clean and safe aged care premise, and maintain quality clinical care.
To ensure older Australians get quality Aged Care, there are two governing bodies that enforce duty of care:
- Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care: Responsible for developing, upholding, and updating laws governing aged care safety and quality standards.
- The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC): Responsible for inspecting aged care providers and ensuring their compliance in delivering quality care services.
Does duty of care apply to all Home and Aged Care workers?
Duty of care applies to all Home Care and Aged Care workers, and anyone working in the industry. They must comply with the rules and safety standards, regardless if it’s in a client’s home, community care centres, or aged care homes.
Examples of Aged Care workers include:
- Aged Care nurse – A registered nurse responsible for managing and administering medical assistance in a home.
- Non-medical aged care workers – Responsible for domestic tasks and providing a clean and healthy environment.
- Home Care nurses – A registered nurse with medical responsibilities for residents in their own homes.
- Home Care workers – Workers responsible for helping seniors with daily chores and maintaining their homes.
What to do if your Aged Care provider has breached their duty of care
Most Aged Care providers are highly monitored and regulated. However, breaches of duty of care still exist. It’s important to understand what circumstances are considered a breach and what to do in such situations.
For example, if an Aged Care Home has neglected to repair a stair in the home, which caused a fall, or if they have failed to update carers on their loved one’s health condition, then it would be considered a breach of their duty of care. If you think your Aged Cafe provider has breached their duty of care, you can raise a complaint to your service provider or contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission for further investigation.
Navigating duty of care in Australia
Understanding duty of care in Australia can be confusing, and you should seek support from professionals who understand the Aged Care industry when in doubt.
CareAbout helps carers and find supports and navigate the various available Home Care and Aged Care options. For experienced help with understanding Aged Care providers, contact our team for a personalised discussion.