Timely, Appropriate Referrals and Responding to Deterioration in Community and Residential Care
Published: 28 June 2023
Published: 28 June 2023
Aged care clients have the right to receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
All care recipients are subject to changes in their condition, whether they be physical, emotional, cognitive or functional. Part of adequate care provision is being able to promptly detect these changes quickly, intervene appropriately and refer the client to a specialist service if deemed necessary (ACQSC 2022).
Timely, appropriate referrals and responding to deterioration are components of the Aged Care Quality Standards, Standard 3: Personal Care and Clinical Care and Standard 4: Services and Supports for Daily Living.
If a provider finds that they are unable to meet a client’s needs, goals and preferences appropriately, they are expected to consult with the client and promptly refer them to another provider, organisation or individual who is able to fulfil these needs (ACQSC 2022).
Providers should deliver care that is timely, culturally safe and in an appropriate setting. Furthermore, if the client is experiencing physical, psychological or spiritual distress, prompt interventions should be made to reduce their suffering and ensure their dignity at the end of their life (ACQSC 2022).
Under the Quality of Care Principles 2014, providers should be able to meet the needs of a diverse range of consumers. Establishing a collaborative network of providers can assist with this by making it easier to refer clients to the appropriate party (ACQSC 2022).
Clients may need to be referred to specialist services throughout the course of their care. These can include, but are not limited to:
If a client requires one of these specialist services, the provider is expected to refer them in a timely manner (ACQSC 2022).
Knowing when to refer is just as important as knowing when not to refer.
Clients receiving care services, particularly those in residential aged care, often require acute medical services, largely due to a high prevalence of chronic disease and multiple comorbidities (VIC DoH 2016).
In fact, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (2021) found that in 2018-2019, 37% of people receiving residential aged care were admitted to hospital at least once.
Unfortunately, hospital admission can place older adults at significant risk of complications such as hospital-acquired infections, falls, reduced mobility and disorientation (VIC DoH 2016; RACGP 2019).
Despite this, it’s estimated that between 13 and 67% of aged care resident hospital admissions are avoidable. Some are not necessary at all (VIC DoH 2016; RACGP 2019).
A 2019 joint report from the NSW Aged Care Roundtable found that aged care staff had witnessed avoidable emergency admissions for a range of reasons, including:
Moreover, the report revealed exceptionally high rates (in some cases over 90%) of delayed patient discharge due to factors such as transport logistics, insufficient staff and lack of staff knowledge (NSW Aged Care Roundtable 2019).
Why is this occurring despite the risks that hospitalisation poses to these clients?
According to the report, residential aged care facilities are suffering from an inability to provide the level and quality of care required by their clients (NSW Aged Care Roundtable 2019).
Furthermore, residents themselves are requesting unnecessary hospital admission because they do not have confidence in their provider’s ability to appropriately respond to deterioration (NSW Aged Care Roundtable 2019).
In order to reduce the number of avoidable hospitalisations, the report made the following recommendations to providers:
(NSW Aged Care Roundtable 2019)
While avoidable hospitalisations do occur, there are times when referrals to hospital will be necessary. Always consider what is best for your client above all else, and follow your organisation’s relevant policies.
Appropriately recognising and responding to deterioration is essential to ensure the client receives the care they require, in the right setting.
It is important to note that deterioration can occur rapidly or over a prolonged period. While it may indicate a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention, some deterioration is caused by untreatable factors such as disease progression. Distinguishing between the two is crucial in ensuring the client receives the correct care and is referred to the right place, if necessary (ELDAC 2022).
As care staff often spend a significant amount of time with clients (sometimes interacting with them daily), they may notice signs of deterioration. Providers should encourage care staff to report deterioration if:
Depending on the cause and type of deterioration, staff may need to:
The following is a list of Ausmed resources that may apply to specific deterioration scenarios:
Clients expect to receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. This means providers are responsible for identifying deterioration or a change of needs and promptly referring the client to the appropriate party.
Providers must also ensure they understand when hospital admission is and is not appropriate in order to minimise unnecessary distress and harm to the client. This may require additional staff training and education.
Question 1 of 3
True or false: Deterioration always requires immediate medical intervention.