What does duty of care mean in aged care, and how does this differ from standard of care? It’s important to understand how care is defined and interpreted by your aged care provider, so you can find the best support possible.


What is duty of care in aged care?

At its very essence and in its legal definition, duty of care relates to the responsibility not to cause harm or injury to another person that could be reasonably foreseen. In an aged care setting this requires capable staff, safe premises and quality clinical care. But care goes far deeper than this typical duty of care meaning.

While it’s important to ensure the very basics of duty of care are met, a more pressing consideration, especially as Australia’s aged care system is increasingly faced with an ageing population, is maximising the standard of care afforded to residents. To provide an example of duty of care in aged care: care is not just providing a plate of food at every meal; it’s ensuring that the meal is nutritionally balanced, full of flavour, made with fresh seasonal food and tailored to each resident’s dietary needs, together with any support they might need while enjoying their meal.


What are the responsibilities of aged care providers under duty of care?

If you’re receiving Australian Government funded aged care services, then you have certain rights that underpin the standard of care that you receive.

The Charter of Aged Care Rights states that you have the right to:

  1. safe and high quality care and services
  2. be treated with dignity and respect
  3. have your identity, culture and diversity valued and supported
  4. live without abuse and neglect
  5. be informed about your care and services in a way you understand
  6. access all information about yourself, including information about your rights, care and services
  7. have control over and make choices about your care, and personal and social life, including where the choices involve personal risk
  8. have control over, and to make decisions about, the personal aspects of your daily life, financial affairs and possessions
  9. your independence
  10. be listened to and understood
  11. have a person of your choice, including an aged care advocate, support you or speak on your behalf
  12. complain free from reprisal, and to have your complaints dealt with fairly and promptly
  13. personal privacy and to have your personal information protected
  14. exercise your rights without it adversely affecting the way you are treated.

Aged care providers have a responsibility to ensure they meet these rights and obligations, and to provide a safe and supportive environment that promotes the wellbeing and independence of their residents.


How does duty of care impact seniors and their carers?

Duty of care in aged care is a legal and ethical obligation that applies to anyone who is responsible for the care of another person. This duty is particularly important in the context of aged care, where seniors are often vulnerable and require a high level of support and care.

For seniors, duty of care means that they have the right to receive safe and appropriate care that meets their individual needs. This includes physical, emotional, and social support, as well as access to healthcare services and other resources that promote their well-being. Seniors also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to have their privacy and autonomy respected. As one example, a resident might choose to walk to the shops to buy a daily newspaper even if they’re frail. To accommodate this choice, a team member might walk with the resident to keep them company, or check in with the resident to ensure they arrive back safely every day.

For carers, duty of care in aged care means that they have a legal and ethical obligation to provide safe and appropriate care to seniors. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that seniors are protected from harm, abuse, and neglect. Carers are also responsible for maintaining accurate records of care and communicating effectively with seniors, their families, and other healthcare providers.


What should I look for when choosing an aged care home with a strong duty of care?

Duty of care in aged care is essential, but so is the standard of care. As you begin the process of moving into aged care, it’s important that you choose aged care facilities where you will feel respected, valued and supported. You might wish to ask how the aged care provider interprets and meets the Charter of Aged Care Rights. All aged care homes need to meet Aged Care Quality Standards in order to receive government funding, and you can Find a Report for specific aged care facilities to see how they’ve performed over time.


How is duty of care enforced in aged care?

Aged care providers are subject to regulation and oversight to ensure they meet their duty of care obligations. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is responsible for assessing and monitoring the quality of aged care services in Australia, and providers must comply with Aged Care Quality Standards to receive government funding.

Mandatory reporting also plays a crucial role in upholding the duty of care in aged care settings. The duty of care requires that care providers take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients. This includes lodging complaints and reporting any incidents of abuse or neglect that are observed or suspected.


What happens if an aged care provider breaches their duty of care?

If an aged care provider breaches their duty of care obligations, they may be subject to regulatory action, such as sanctions, fines, or revocation of their accreditation. In serious cases, legal action may be taken.


Can family members be held responsible for the duty of care of their loved one in aged care?

Family members are not legally responsible for the duty of care of their loved ones in aged care, but they may play an important role in advocating for their rights and supporting their care. Family members should work collaboratively with care team members to ensure their loved ones receive the support and care they need.


How can seniors and their carers advocate for their rights under duty of care?

Seniors and their carers can advocate for their rights under duty of care by being informed and active participants in their care. They can ask questions about their care and services, provide feedback on their experiences, and raise concerns if they feel their rights are not being met. They can also access advocacy services, such as the Older Persons Advocacy Network, for support in navigating the aged care system.


What resources are available to help seniors and their carers understand duty of care in aged care?

There are many resources available to help seniors and their carers understand duty of care in aged care. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission provides information and resources on the Aged Care Quality Standards and how to make a complaint. The OPAN provides advocacy and support services to seniors and their families, and the My Aged Care website provides information on accessing and choosing aged care services.


What kind of training do aged care providers receive on duty of care?

Aged care providers are required to ensure that their staff receive appropriate training on duty of care and the Aged Care Quality Standards. This can include training on topics such as infection control, medication management, and managing challenging behaviours. Providers are also required to ensure that their staff have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide quality care and services.


Book a tour

Choosing an aged care home can be a difficult decision, but it’s important to choose a home that meets your needs and provides quality care and services.

At Aurrum Aged Care, our Living Life values are carefully developed with a holistic approach to each resident’s needs. This begins with care planning, where we take into account a new resident’s lifestyle and support needs by speaking with that person and their loved ones. Each resident’s personalised care plan encompasses a range of needs, encompassing physical comfort, information, stability and respect for a person’s preferences and values.

If you are interested in seeing firsthand the exceptional care and services that Aurrum’s aged care homes in Victoria and NSW provide to their residents, we invite you to book a tour with us today. Our friendly team will be happy to show you around and answer any questions you may have.