You are here: HomeResourcesBetter Practice Guide to Complaint HandlingCase Studies/Learning Exercises

Case Studies/Learning Exercises

Learning Exercises

This document contains learning exercises based on real aged care industry case studies. The document can be used or adapted by service providers to discuss different approaches to complaint handling in aged care settings in a group setting, for example at staff meetings.

This document is designed to be used as a starting point. Service providers should adapt this document in consultation with staff and care recipients to ensure it meets the specific needs of their own service.

NB: This is a text template. not a fully formatted print-ready template. Service providers may need to adjust margins, column spacing and text wrapping to suit their service’s printing and IT set-up.

Learning Exercise: Tom’s Story

Your employer, aged care provider Green Trees, provides at-home assistance to Tom, who is 84 years old.

Several years ago Tom had a stroke which left him with limited mobility. Until recently, Tom was able to get himself in and out of his wheelchair and off his bed, with carers there to help him with his daily activities. Lately, you have observed Tom is struggling to transfer himself.

Although it’s been suggested that he would benefit from taking up a residential care place, Tom wants to stay in his own home. He is nervous about moving to a residential care facility.

Question for discussion:

Why might Tom wish to remain at home? Are there any risks associated with Tom staying at home? How could Tom benefit from the assistance offered at a residential service?

Tom’s family supports his wish to remain at home. However, the funds available under his community care package are stretched to the limit. As a result, they are finding it hard to pay for the home care he wants.

You arrange a meeting with the family to discuss the issues around Tom’s care arrangements. The family asks for additional carers to help with his transfers. You explain to the family that, unfortunately, Green Trees doesn’t have the capacity to provide any additional carers, but that an occupational therapist has reviewed Tom’s care needs and found that Tom could be assisted to transfer safely with some additional equipment. Further, you inform the family that Green Trees can fund the cost of the equipment from a separate funding pool.

The family are unhappy to hear that Green Trees is unable to provide an additional carer. They are reluctant to accept the offer of new equipment.

Questions for discussion:

What could be some reasons for the family’s reluctance to accept your offer? What other solutions could you offer? How could you discuss these with the family?

Dissatisfied, the family look to other sources to find extra carers for Tom. But, wary of letting strangers into Tom’s home, they turn away numerous carers they feel are unsuitable. Living in a rural area further complicates their search for suitable carers.

Frustrated, the family put their concerns in a letter to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner (the Complaints Commissioner).

Question for discussion:

What do you think will happen now that the Complaints Commissioner has become involved in this complaint? Does the Complaints Commissioner’s involvement have an impact on how you engage with Tom and his family?

During a conciliation process, the complaints officer points out that Green Trees, by reviewing Tom’s needs and offering the additional lifting equipment to address these needs, had met its obligations under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Commonwealth). The officer helps the family to understand both Green Trees’ perspective and its obligations as an aged care service provider.

At the conclusion of the conciliation process, the family accepts that Green Trees is helping Tom to the best of the service’s abilities. Further, Green Trees reports that staff feel less pressure and stress in handling complaints knowing the Complaints Commissioner is there to support service providers as well as care recipients. Both parties are now working much more closely to ensure Tom is appropriately supported to stay in his own home for the foreseeable future.

Question for discussion:

Now that the complaint has been resolved, what can you do to contribute to an ongoing positive relationship between Green Trees, Tom and Tom’s family? What kind of support would you like to see from your employer to help you do this?

Learning Exercise: Dorothy’s Story

Dorothy, 82 years of age, lives at Coco Beach Respite Service. At a recent client meeting, she complains to you that a number of her laundry items are coming back unironed. When you clarify Dorothy’s concerns, you discover that she would like her underwear, singlets, nighties and socks to be ironed.

Question for discussion:

How could you engage with Dorothy about her concerns to assist her in reaching a positive outcome?

To resolve the issue, you offer to raise the matter for discussion at the next monthly service meeting to find out if other residents have concerns about their laundry or ironing services. You reassure Dorothy that her confidentiality will be protected and Dorothy agrees to her concern being discussed at the meeting.

At the meeting, the residents appear to feel comfortable sharing their views and ironing preferences in the open forum. Some of the staff also open up about the stress they feel having to make individual judgement calls on what items of laundry to iron, and having to remember how certain residents like their items to be ironed.

Question for discussion:

Can you think of any potential benefits or limitations to using an open forum like a meeting to raise and discuss issues? What other approaches could you have used to resolve the issue to Dorothy’s satisfaction?

Following the meeting, you collate the information about residents’ ironing preferences into a list that laundry staff can follow to ensure that residents’ preferences and expectations are met, where possible. The list is displayed in the laundry as a reference for staff.

Question for discussion:

What are some alternative outcomes that could have arisen from the meeting? How might they have impacted on care recipients and staff?

A month later you follow up with Dorothy and other residents to seek their feedback on the new system. Residents report they are pleased their ironing preferences are being met. Staff advise they are feeling less stressed as they now have clear instructions on recipients’ requirements.

Question for discussion:

How could you respond if the parties were not satisfied with the outcome?

Learning Exercise: Terry’s Story

You work as the complaints officer at Florida Point Care Facility. Last month, 79-year-old Terry, a care recipient, mentioned to the head chef that the curry prawn dish had no taste.

The head chef, Igor, was at first a little hurt by the remarks about his signature dish. Despite this, he took down the details of Terry’s concern, and politely thanked Terry for his feedback. Igor told Terry that you, the complaints officer, would contact him within 48 hours.

You receive Terry’s complaint from Igor and contact Terry straight away. Not expecting a response until the following day, Terry is thrilled by your quick action on the matter. You agree with Terry to set up a meeting to discuss his concerns.

Question for discussion:

How could you discuss the concern with Terry to help achieve a positive outcome to the matter? What are some questions you could ask Terry to find out more information about his concerns?

At your meeting with Terry, you ask him to clarify his concerns and discover that Terry has a preference for spicy foods. Now that you understand Terry’s point of view and that he is happy with the taste but would like his curry prawns to be served more spicy, you realise that there could be other care recipients with similar preferences.

Question for discussion:

How could you go about managing a care recipient’s preference for something as opposed to a complaint about something they are not happy with? Would you respond differently to a matter concerning preferences than you would to a complaint?

You decide the best way to manage the issue is to send out an anonymous survey to all care recipients to identify their satisfaction with the current menu and seek feedback on possible improvements. You run your idea past Terry. He is happy with this approach.

Question for discussion:

Are there any other ways you could manage the issue to achieve a positive outcome for Terry and the other care recipients?
After gathering the responses, you identify there are six other care recipients who would like their curry prawns to be spicier. To respond to this preference, Igor the chef agrees to set aside some of his special stock to make the curry prawn dish spicier for those who prefer it.

Several weeks later, you follow up with another anonymous survey to all care recipients. Overall, recipients respond that they are very happy with the new spicier curry prawns option.

Question for discussion:

How could you seek to maintain care recipient satisfaction with the standard of meals over a longer term?