Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2015 Contents Frontline view
Aged care from all angles
Personal experience spurred
Dana Sawyer into a career
change into aged care.
Sawyer, who is now a
director of Millennium Aged
Care Placement Consultants, says her
mother's move into residential aged care
was "disastrous" and complicated by poor
communication and misinformation.
"Personal experience is why I do this,"
she tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
With degrees in business and
psychology, Sawyer teamed up with Jayne
Maini, a registered nurse of 25 years, to
help others navigate the complex aged
care system and to avoid her distressing
experience being repeated by others.
Maini and Sawyer purchased the
organisation in 2008 from three registered
nurses who had established the company
in 1999. Maini and Sawyer have since
expanded the Melbourne-based business
to include placement consultants in
Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth.
Aged care placement consultants
are a relatively new role in the industry
and Millennium is the largest placement
consultancy service in the country, having
placed over 3,500 clients.
Sawyer says her role is to help empower
consumers and their families through
independent advice and guidance on
accessing and moving into aged care. She
says a good part of her job is correcting
misconceptions, simplifying information
and making clear to people the full range
of options that are available to them.
"It's about putting accurate information
in front of people so they can make
Aged care placement consultant Dana
Sawyer helps arm consumers with
independent information to make informed
decisions about entering aged care. She talks
to Linda Belardi about the value placement
consultants can add to the experience of
consumers and to the broader sector.
Dana Sawyer, director of Millennium Aged Care
an informed decision based on their
individual circumstances," she says.
"It is so vital in a consumer-driven
aged care system to give consumers good
information so they are basing their decisions
on quality information and not fear."
Sawyer says aged care placement
consultants also take on the role of
consumer advocate, supporting families
through the transition and providing
unbiased advice that is not influenced by
external pressures such as moving hospital
beds or filling aged care vacancies. "We are
paid by the client, so our sole focus is on
the needs and interests of the individual
client. We don't have to direct them
anywhere and we don't have to work to a
particular timeframe either."
Their role also has significant system-
wide benefits by reducing readmissions
to hospital, she says. "If a person is
discharged from hospital and not placed
into an appropriate care option they will
probably end up back in hospital."
And for aged care facilities, they are
not wasting their time on clients who are
unsuitable for their facility.
She says that by the time a client is ready
to view a facility, a placement consultant has
already refined their search so they are only
inspecting facilities that match a clients'
preferences and circumstances.
"When it's time to arrange facility
tours, they are looking at only two or
three facilities - not at 10, so that's seven
facilities that are not wasting their time
on a client they can't help for whatever
reason -- such as no vacancies, a person's
care needs, finances, lifestyle or religion."
Sawyer says she is surprised by the
amount of time providers waste on
tours and meetings with clients who are
unsuited to their facility.
AN EXPANDING SERVICE
In a significant development for the
organisation, Millennium has recently struck
a deal with a private health fund to include
Millennium's aged care placement service
as a benefit to their members. Members of
Teachers Health Fund, a fast-growing health
insurer for educators, can now access their
services at no extra cost.
To improve processes and boost its
reputation, the organisation has also been
certified with ISO 9001, an internationally
recognised quality management system.
Sawyer hopes that by achieving this
quality standard it will help build confidence
in the organisation and raise the profile of
the aged care placement consultant.
"Hospitals, aged care facilities and
consumers can comfortably know that
they are working with an organisation that
does have quality management systems in
place," she says.
Building awareness of the role and
demonstrating the value of an aged care
placement consultant has been an ongoing
challenge. Sawyer says that hospitals have
been slow to refer their patients to the
service, despite their specialised knowledge
and understanding of the aged care system.
While social workers and discharge
planners can assist people to access aged
care, she says they are not specialists and
they are also very time-poor.
Sawyer says she is passionate about
giving consumers "real choice", especially
in the shift to a greater user-pays system.
"It's very satisfying to know that you have
assisted a client to make the most out of this
stage of life and that are really comfortable
in the final decision they have made." n
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