Wellness must be at the core of our future aged care system

Marcus Riley

Our aged care system for the future must have wellness as its centrepiece of service delivery.

Wellness must be established as the golden thread of a system to ensure meaningful outcomes for all people using aged care services – ranging from entry level services like home-based care through to respite and residential aged care.

Of course, when referring to wellness this must mean more than a treadmill and pair of dumbbells gathering dust in some room labelled ‘gym.’  True wellness-based services need to incorporate the physical, social and emotional aspects of a person’s life.  A genuine commitment to wellness requires a multi-disciplinary team each with suitable expertise and resources to facilitate an individual pursuing their personal priorities and preferences.  It includes evidence of health and wellbeing outcomes in accordance with individual needs and wants.

The coming months will appropriately see the anticipation of the final report from the Royal Commission and the resultant Government response, ahead of the May 2021 Budget.  Debate about best aged care policy will ensue. Beyond this we will see the continued pursuit of the Workforce Strategy, the re-writing of qualifications and training packages for aged care workers and expectations will be raised for the sector.  The industry will evolve its approach to delivering best-care and providers will continue to innovate. Importantly, consumer advocacy will continue and hopefully increase in effectiveness.  All of these activities, initiatives, developments must work to instill wellness as foundational in our renewed and reimagined aged care system.  Advocates have to insist on it, industry should lead on it, authorities must decide on it.

The inadequacies of the current funding regime, challenges with scope of services and emerging ‘consumer preferences’ are well documented.  Indeed, the realities are well known.  Clarity of purpose and commitment to action is now required.

Studies commissioned by the Department of Health have affirmed the need for, and value of, locking into a wellness model citing the life-changing benefits for people who have already engaged in wellness-based services.  The Australian Association of Gerontology have released reports that wellness and reablement services should be available to everyone across all aged care settings.  The evidence is in!  People who are accessing services that deliver across the social, physical and emotional domains are enjoying the connection, empowerment and participation.  Such experiences need to become the expected standard. 

A human-rights based approach to the underpinning principles of a new aged care system is the right way for our future.  Having wellness as the centrepiece of what that system provides will be the key to ensuring older Australians’ live in a happy and healthy way – physically, emotionally and socially.   



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