15 October 2019

Minimum standards have finally been created for health care services provided in Australian retirement villages, in a breakthrough which will make it easier for consumers to understand how their needs will be met.

Retirement villages are regulated under State law and have been traditionally established as an accommodation service. This is different to aged care facilities and in-home care services, which are regulated under Commonwealth law. 

However, there is an increasing demand for care services to be available in retirement villages. This is being driven by a number of factors, as below:

  • People moving into the villages at a later age - according to last year’s Retirement Living Census the average age of a retirement living resident has increased to 81, while the average age of entry remains 75. Only 2% of current residents are now aged under 70
  • A government policy shift to encourage the delivery of in-home care services, rather than assuming that care will only be provided in residential aged care facilities
  • A desire by many consumers to remain in independent living arrangements, for as long as they are able to do this.

These trends have meant that an increasing number of frail and vulnerable people, who are in need of care, are living in retirement villages and wish to remain there. 

Villages are now commonly partnering with in-home care accredited organisations to offer services to residents who need them. In some villages, there are also low needs serviced apartments available with extra support

Until now, however, there hasn’t been a comprehensive set of standards to define how these care services should be provided and administered.

In response to this, the Property Council of Australia and Leading Age Services Australia have come together over the last two years to prepare the Australian Retirement Village Accreditation Scheme, Retirement villages are able to apply to be listed as accredited under the scheme, if they pass a series of on-site inspections.

The standards state that only health professionals are able to provide high-risk care services, such as helping people who need assistance washing, ongoing wound care, continence support and dealing with cognitive decline including wandering and aggression.

Other elements of the standards include that:

  • Residents have the right to make individual choices and preferences in relation to their care, including when that choice involves a degree of risk - this is part of a move away from custodial-style care to care which is person-centered and consumer-directed
  • If an operator has Commonwealth funded home care services, and are delivering these services in a consistent way to both government-funded and private clients in the village, then they are exempt from the standards
  • The scope of care services available to residents is clearly documented and communicated
  • A documented plan of care is established based on a resident’s needs
  • There is a point of contact within senior management for ensuring safe, high-quality care services
  • Executive management and the village operator’s board receive regular reports about care services.

Downsizing.com.au is a great way to look for aged care support services including in-home care available in your local community, or in retirement villages, serviced accommodation and aged care facilities. Use our search filter to look for aged care and in home care services.

By Mark Skelsey, Editor at Downsizing.com.au