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What do I do if I have a complaint about my care?

The number of people currently receiving aged care services, either in the community or in a residential facility, is vastly increasing and every day more people are entering new services.

Key points:

  • Don't be afraid to speak up if you have a complaint, it's important to address any concerns you have early 

  • Ask your provider what their complaints process is during your initial consultations with them

  • If you're unsure how to raise a complaint with your provider, there are supports available to assist you

Older woman with an advocate
It is important to know how to go about addressing a complaint about the aged care service you are receiving. [Source: Shutterstock]

Most of the time people will be happy about the care provided or have a good enough relationship with their provider that they feel they can address any issues that may arise.

But sometimes people’s expectations for care are different from the care they actually receive and communication can begin to break down. 

In some cases, a person may have tried to have their concerns addressed but feel like they haven't been heard by their provider.

If that happens, it is important to know how to go about addressing a complaint with your aged care provider and who can assist you in the process.

Before you accept care from a new provider

Before entering a service agreement with a provider, make sure you understand how they deal with complaints or concerns from their clients.

Ask questions such as: Who do you talk to? What is their complaints process? How long does it take for them to resolve a complaint? 

It's important to understand this in the initial stages of engaging a provider for services as it can help you decide if this is the right organisation for you to receive care and services from.

It also means you will have all the information you need for when you do need to raise a complaint or concern. Otherwise, you will be left wondering what the process is or what to do if you get into a difficult situation.

What should I do if I have a complaint?

If you are already receiving care and you are concerned or unhappy about the care or services then don't be afraid to speak up. 

This might be scary but it's always best to address concerns as they arise rather than leaving it to escalate. 

Your provider should be doing everything they can to make sure your services and care are being delivered in a way that you consider safe and respectful. Your complaint should make your provider want to make changes to any care or services that you are unsatisfied with.

Firstly, try to talk to the service provider to sort out any issues directly. You should have your complaint in written form, and email it or provide a copy to your provider. From there, you should organise a meeting to discuss the issue and what they can do to resolve it.

Your complaint may be around the quality of care you are receiving, how the staff are treating you, issues with your bill or payments, or the services you are being provided compared to what is highlighted in your care plan.

If you feel you are not being heard or don't feel comfortable to deal with it yourself, the next step is to engage an advocacy service or advocate to assist you in resolving the matter with your provider.

There are many different advocacy services that can assist you, which you can search in the products and services directory on the AgedCareGuide.com.au.

An advocate can provide a range of support during your complaint process with your provider, including mediation and complaint resolution.

The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) is a free resource and advocacy group that can assist you with your complaint of any Government funded aged care services. Visit their website for more information or call on 1800 700 600.

If you have made all the effort to resolve your concern or complaint, but are still feeling like the problem hasn't been fixed or that your provider is not cooperating to come to a solution, you may need to take your complaint further. 

Who do I go to for help if things don't work out?

The next step you could take if your provider is not listening to your concerns is lodging a complaint with the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) to action the concern further. Make a complaint online or call on 1800 951 822. The ACQSC only handles complaints from recipients receiving Government funded services.

It's possible to make an anonymous or confidential complaint with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, however, you will not have the right to ask the Commission to review their decision on the complaint if it is made anonymously.

To increase the change of a good outcome, it is always best to give as much information as possible including your contact details in case the Commission wants to get in touch with you to ask more questions.

The Commission will then gather as much information as they can so they can understand the issue and what outcome you are trying to achieve. They will also explain how they resolve complaints and what complaint resolution you could expect.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will work with you and the provider to come to a solution. 

This can be through facilitated meetings, informal or formal mediation, or service provider resolution where the provider is asked to address the issue and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will assess what the provider has done before deciding whether to take further action.

If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you can have the complaint reviewed with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. For more information about this pathway visit their website or call 1300 362 072. 

If you believe there is fraud or financial mismanagement at an aged care facility, contact the Department of Health - Investigations and Fraud Control on 1800 829 403.

Lastly, if your concern is around elder abuse, call the National Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 353 374. If the elder abuse concern involves immediate danger, call the Triple 0 emergency line on 000.

What service issues have you had to complain about and how did the provider deal with your complaint? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

The role of advocacy in aged care
Accreditation
What is elder abuse

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