The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (the Commission) has identified significant challenges within the aged care sector, with the extent of substandard care much more widespread and more serious than originally anticipated. The Commission acknowledged that service providers need to do more than just make a great customer promise – they need to keep that promise by aligning it to the experience their customers want and expect. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed flaws across the sector.
The pandemic has upended normal operations. The focus has understandably been on safety and compliance, curbing the spread of the virus, and maintaining the physical health of the older Australians in residential aged care. Measures including visitor restrictions, and limiting group activities were introduced, along with rigorous infection control procedures. While delivering many benefits, these measures created unintended consequences. The prolonged separation from families and loved ones has had a significant impact on mental wellbeing – with the Commission reporting increased levels of depression, anxiety, confusion, loneliness and suicide risk among aged care residents since March 2020.
Even before the pandemic, loneliness is more common in long-term care institutions, with double the prevalence than in the community, and isolation one of the most common concerns raised.The US government identified that whilst increased use of virtual meeting platforms has been warmly welcomed by families, and assisted in addressing the risk of social isolation for residents, it emphasized that visitation is a vital resident right’.
As the pandemic continues to unfold, tensions will continue to exist between rigorous infection control measures, while also providing a high quality of life and a positive client experience. To balance quality and safety with positive experiences for residents and their families, providers can ask themselves the following questions:
Even while the pandemic continues and there is uncertainty about the future, there are actions providers can take right now. Providers can leverage innovation to drive customer centric mindsets and behaviour at a time when more than ever residents and their families need to feel understood and acknowledged. From undertaking a customer experience maturity assessment on your organisation, a refresh of resident feedback mechanisms, finding new ways of communication or providing innovative ways to embed a culture that is truly customer-centric, there are many options open to providers to making sure that every resident experience is a great one.
The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the anticipated Final Report from the Royal Commission, presents an opportunity for providers to take action now to redefine customer experience within their organisation.
 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. 2020. Interim Report: Neglect. Volume 1: Oct
 Victor, Cr. R. Loneliness in care homes: a neglected area of research? Aging health. 2012: 8: 637-646
 Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. Sept 2020. Mitre Corporation https://context-cdn.washingtonpost.com/notes/prod/default/documents/7ff49d92-e87e-482d-9abf-8cf4d4c34428/note/6807e47b-fd49-4390-a697-6311b86eaf63.