Australia’s aged care system is coming under increasing pressure as a result of demographic, social and economic change.
According to a final inquiry report produced by the Productivity Commission, the number of people receiving aged care services is expected to increase by around 250 per cent over the next 40 years, with some 3.5 million people (10.3 per cent of Australia’s population) requiring the support of aged care services by 2049-50.
Coupled with this increased demand are rising community expectations about the type, quality and flexibility of care that is received, and rapidly increasing costs for providers, including staffing costs and utility/service costs.
With legislative changes, aged care providers are looking for competitive advantages in ensuring compliance with building codes and standards to receive additional government funding.
Aged care providers are also seeking improvements in the standard and efficiency of their facilities while minimising potential risks.
To meet these challenges and gain access to much needed resources, there are a number of building services technologies which can help aged care providers.
Building Management and Control Systems (BMCS)
Building management and control systems can provide significant operational benefits by optimising building services such as air-conditioning to increase efficiency and decrease running costs.
Advanced versions can act as monitoring systems and flag maintenance tasks automatically. This helps minimise the risk of system failure and ensure continuous quality of care. For example, the temperature of warm water systems can be continuously monitored to reduce the likelihood of Legionella/bacterial growth.
Importantly, they can also provide written records to clearly demonstrate compliance with statutory codes and standards, including maintenance tasks, which are integral in helping open up access to additional government funding.
Monitoring and alarm systems
These systems are ideal for increasing staff efficiency through better response times with less staff, and in turn improving quality of care.
Advanced bed/room occupancy sensors can reduce the amount of regular resident checking required. Sensors automatically notify staff if a resident remains in one location too long, for example in their ensuite bathroom, and can assist with monitoring bed wetting and other similar issues.
Wandering resident systems can automatically track and notify staff in the event that a resident moves past set areas or leaves their bed, which again reduces the onus on staff to monitor residents.
These systems can also be successfully used to support the provision of in-home care through remote monitoring.
There are numerous sustainable technologies that can be implemented to improve operations and the internal environment.
High efficiency/low energy use air conditioning systems are one such option. For example, the specifications for heat recovery ventilators can increase the efficiency of the facility while at the same time providing higher levels of fresh air.
There are also very simple ‘quick wins’ such as low water use fixtures and fittings to decrease water usage and help eliminate the risk of Legionella growth in the fixture, and high efficiency lighting and controls which also decrease energy use.
At the Philip Kennedy Centre project, a 52-bed extension in Largs Bay, South Australia, VRV air conditioning was installed. Via the use of inverter technology, the system is expected to achieve energy savings of 30 per cent compared to a conventional system.
The use of T5 fluorescent lighting, a high performance solution, has the potential to cut the energy use of lighting by 65 per cent. Meanwhile, solar hot water units have been used to reduce one of the largest impacts on the nursing home’s energy bill and cut their emission of greenhouse gases by approximately 60 per cent.
Engineering and technological specifications for intelligent building services can simplify and significantly increase quality of care by improving response times and the indoor environment, while also minimising risk.
They can also increase the efficiency of sites by helping to achieve financial savings, optimize staff usage, reduce day-to-day operational costs, improve financial sustainability, and assist in complying with codes and standards, all of which can ultimately help facilities secure government funding.