‘An examination of organisational policies for healthcare and lifestyle decision-making among Australian aged care providers’ examines the legislative, policy and regulatory context of residential aged care in relationship to a rights-based approach that is embodied in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) four Decision-Making Principles.

New aged care quality standards, applicable across all aged care settings, were introduced from July 2019, with further emphasis on rights-based approaches to decision-making that are derived from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention).

The study that the article is based on measured the extent to which the policies and procedures of seven not-for-profit Australian aged care organisations align with the four Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Decision-Making Principles.

  1. All adults have an equal right to make decisions that affect their lives and to have those decisions respected
  2. Persons who require support in decision-making must be provided with access to the support necessary for them to make, communicate and participate in decisions that affect their lives
  3. The will, preferences and rights of persons who may require decision-making support must direct decisions that affect their lives
  4. There should be appropriate and effective safeguards in relation to intervention for persons who may require decision-making support, including to prevent abuse and undue influence

Given the growing prevalence of dementia in Australia, and the impact of cognitive impairment and cognitive disability on decision-making, people with dementia will be affected by policy and legislation in this area.  The article states, “Increasing demand for aged care services for people with dementia and growing attention on rights-based approaches and ‘consumer-directed’ aged care makes it important to examine existing policies among aged care providers.”

These ALRC Decision Making Principles will provide a framework for the accreditation of aged care services, including those relating to care-recipient involvement in decision-making.

The authors of the article have generated practical resources from this research, including a policy guideline document for aged care providers, which enables a self-audit process and provides recommendations on how policies might be aligned with the ALRC Principles and incoming aged care standards. (https://cdpc.sydney.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/SDM-Policy-Guidelines.pdf)

(Authors: Craig Sinclair, Sue Field, Meredith Blake and Helen Radoslovich)