Rae’s Reflections – The value of listening

In my role as the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, I hear the stories of those in aged care every day; especially their concerns and the changes that would improve their lives.  My staff and I work with people receiving aged care services and their loved ones by listening to their complaints, understanding their needs, and working with providers to ensure that aged care improves.  In our role as complaints managers, or in your role as a family member, friend, or aged care service provider, one of the most valuable things we can all do is to listen.

As we get older, we become more and more reliant on others for help and support, and all too often we are no longer listened to by the people who are helping us.  In today’s busy world, this can happen for so many reasons. It is up to each of us to reflect on our need to be more respectful to those who now need our help and support, and to improve the way we listen to them. Because by listening, we hear their concerns.  Not only will we learn, but listening will allow us to help older people to value themselves, and to give them confidence that their voices are heard and that their concerns matter.  All it takes is for us to ask, and then take the time to listen.

I regard active listening as one of the primary skills required by my staff when they are handling complaints. To completely understand what a complaint is about, we need to know what the concerns are and what the person making the complaint wants to achieve.  Often the person making the complaint is not the person receiving care but a family member or friend, and they may not have a complete understanding of the issues.  For this reason we try to talk directly to the person receiving care to confirm the issues with them, and to make sure that we’ve listened to everything they have to say.  Listening is a valuable skill when dealing with complaints not just for me and my staff, but also for family members before they call us, or service providers when they first hear of concerns. To improve the lives of older people, let’s start by listening.

Rae Lamb, Aged Care Complaints Commissioner