Fees, domestic services and consistency of care were the top three complaints by consumers to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner about home care providers in the last quarter.

Overall, complaints to the Commissioner decreased between January and March, despite an anticipated spike in home care issues as the shift to consumer directed care began.

But Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb has said she maintains her challenge to providers to be more open about complaints and how they are handled.

Last month Ms Lamb told the Sydney Morning Herald providers should be “bringing complaints and how they are handled into the sunlight” to help consumers make better informed choices.

When asked if Ms Lamb’s comments had been reported accurately, a spokesperson said: “There were some things that got a bit lost in translation.”

“There was a mix up relating to the issues – this was corrected in the online version. The reference to changing relationships was taken out of context – the Complaints Commissioner was talking about consumers being given more power through choice and control, not about industry changes.”

“It is correct that the Complaints Commissioner is challenging service providers to be more open about complaints and how they respond to them. The Complaints Commissioner wrote to all the peak bodies, LASA, the Guild and ACSA about her challenge in early April 2017.”

Ms Lamb says providers have more freedom than the Commissioner to openly discuss complaints and how they have been addressed, and they should use this as an opportunity rather than shy away from it.

Although the Commissioner has consistently maintained that complaints about aged care are under-reported, staff now admit they don’t really know.

“While that [proportionally low numbers of complaints] may mean many people don’t complain either because the care is good, or they choose not to for reasons of fear or not knowing how or too hard, it is also likely that many concerns are being raised and directly resolved by the service provider which is good – but we don’t know,” the spokesperson said.

The latest figures from January to March this year showed a decrease in the number of complaints compared to last year.

While the changes to home care packages fell into this quarter and Ms Lamb said the Commissioner is receiving more complaints about home care, the majority of complaints continue to be about residential care.

Between January and March this year there were 1,177 complaints of which 886 related to residential care.

A further 274 related to ‘Help at Home’ (which includes the Commonwealth Home Support Program and Home Care Packages); nine related to ‘Flexible & Community Care’ and eight did not identify the type of service.

By comparison, in the first quarter of this financial year there were 1,202 complaints, with 80 per cent relating to residential care.

The top five issues that people complained about in residential care this quarter were:

  1. Medication administration and management (concern about the appropriate identification, handling, timing, and management of medication)
  2. Personal and oral hygiene (concern about personal hygiene practices provided (e.g. bathing/showering, brushing teeth)
  3. Falls prevention and post fall management (concern about assessment, ongoing monitoring, escalation and post-fall reassessment, including the implementation of strategies to minimise the risk of falls)
  4. Consultation and communication – representative/family consultation and communication (concern about the lack of consultation with representatives or family when making care decisions)
  5. Client assessment and service implementation – change of clinical status/deterioration (concern about the management of clinical status changes, including acute deterioration)

In home care, the top five issues in the last quarter were:

  1. Fees and charges (concern about the charging of fees or other related charges for services provided)
  2. Lack of consultation/communication (concern about the lack of consultation/communication regarding changes, management decisions, or events that impact people receiving services)
  3. Domestic assistance (concern about the availability or quality of domestic assistance (e.g. general house cleaning, unaccompanied shopping, linen services)
  4. Consistent client care and coordination (concern about the consistency of care and coordination of services (e.g. care not being provided due to staff being on leave)
  5. Financial – communication about fees and charges (concern about the effective communication of expected fees and charges, including admission process and invoicing)

When asked how many complaints the Commissioner has received about My Aged Care, the spokesperson said it is the responsibility of the Department of Health and not within the Complaints Commissioner’s jurisdiction.