The Column

Contributor profile: Aged Care Columnist

Our Columnist has been an advocate for better aged care for over a decade. They have worked in aged-care homes and supported seven family members and friends through the Australian system of aged care and found many aspects of it wanting. They have co-authored several submissions to Senate Inquiries on matters relating to aged care and written widely on social policy issues concerning ageing and accommodation for marginalized people.

Politicians generally profess much empathy for frail older Australians. They like to visit aged-care homes – usually when making some funding announcement. They front up to homes at election time and seek photo opportunities with happy, smiling, older people.

We hear the rhetoric over and over again - that Australia has the best aged-care system in the world - no matter which side of politics is in government. And yet one always has the feeling that, in spite of the various statements of support, often there is little real understanding of what it might be like to be very old, frail and needing assistance to achieve the most basic of tasks.

A Victorian coroner has said that the recent nursing home toilet death should not be allowed to happen again. "If it’s happening here, it might have happened elsewhere, it might be happening elsewhere," Coroner Olle said.

Of course it is. That is because many staff in aged-care homes regularly take short cuts in order to get the job done. And they will continue to do so until something is done about the appalling staff/resident ratios in many of our aged-care homes.

How is it possible that a man who has been unable to move any part of his body and is unable to speak is labelled as verbally abusing and physically threatening? Yet this is how he was described in an Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) document.

His daughter, shocked when discovering this assessment, states, 'He cannot do anything for himself, he can’t even call out for help, he pretty much just sits there'.

A further resident who suffers multiple sclerosis, and who can only move one hand, was described as being 'physically abusive'.

Wake in fright

Imagine waking from deep sleep to see a strange, expressionless face staring right down at you. Then imagine that this happens many times a week and that you are aged 96 with limited mobility.

This is life for a friend of mine who lives in a high-care residential facility. It also happened to my mother in similar circumstances – and to many others.

Page 3 of 5