Wellington's Malvina Major Village residents recently invited Carolyn Cooper, Aotearoa/ New Zealand’s first Aged Care Commissioner to the village to talk to them about her new role.
Carolyn who started in the position in March explained to the residents that her focus was to support older people and their whānau wherever they lived and to advocate for better services in the Health and Disability sector.
She will provide strategic oversight and stronger sector leadership to drive quality improvement across services that older people access. And she will ensure access and equity for older people, ensuring they have access to appropriate health services in New Zealand.
“I will try to speed complaints up, but my time will be spent looking at improvements,” she said.
“My role is appointed by the Governor General. I am not a government employee; I am independent and work closely with the Health and Disability Commissioner.”
Carolyn understood it could be challenging for individuals to complain, but she reminded residents that complaints are about improvement, so it is important to do that.
“We encourage people to raise issues and it is important to raise those issues with the person providing the service if possible. A robust complaints process leads to early resolution.
“The Health and Disability Commission is a watchdog on behalf of consumers, it protects you and is there to uphold your consumer rights. Our job is to promote the consumer code of rights with an interest in quality of care and quality of improvement. Knowing your rights is important; use it for guidance.”
Her vision is to see services that meet the needs of older people to live independently. That they have choices and the knowledge of what is available to them, what to do if things don’t go well and who to talk to, to get things sorted.
Carolyn was adamant that equity is important older people. “That they don’t get told they are too old for something, and we need to ensure we are culturally appropriate and accessible for everybody. We monitor this.”
How will she do this new job? Carolyn says it is important to connect with consumers. “I am consumer focused. I want to spend my time engaging with older people, and their families and whānau - for some people that is a critical area.”
She is concerned that services for older people are not forgotten. “Older people deserve access whenever and wherever they need services. We all need to work together to ensure older people receive the care they need.”
Carolyn spoke to a large group of residents at the village, some who were willing to share their experiences of their personal health related issues, and she stayed afterwards to share a cup of tea and friendly chat with the residents.