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.

Let us put ourselves in the position of an 'average' nursing home resident. You are largely confined to a chair and/or a bed.  The only way you can voice your needs is to press your buzzer (if you can reach it and it works) or to tell (if you can speak) those who come to your room to assist in toileting, bathing or dressing.

Danger at night

People are usually stunned to learn that there are no set staff/resident ratios in aged-care homes. They simply assume that frail people in care will be treated like other vulnerable individuals – for example like those in hospital or very young children in kindergarten and day-care who receive the protection of mandated levels of staffing.

Dreading aged care

Last week the federal government finally got around to announcing its long-promised, aged-care reform agenda. Yet the stunning thing about the announcement was not the package itself but the tenor of the resulting talk-back and commentary.

Radio presenters took call after call from individuals expressing great fear and dread of nursing homes. Stories of distressing neglect were recounted. The public clearly has little confidence in the current system of residential care. It is therefore hard to understand why such negative public comment is not seen as a major disaster in public policy?

Locking up old people, throwing away the key

There are three groups of people whom are regularly incarcerated in this world. We lock up people convicted of criminal acts; people who have mental health issues and are assessed as being a threat to themselves or to others and old people who live with dementia – for their own safety.

In the first two instances, there are protective processes and procedures in place. Individuals can take their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps it might be said that old people too, under the principles of Habeas Corpus, also have the right to have their case heard before a judge.

Ageing in place or rorting the system?

Imagine Alice - single woman, no children, getting older, some health issues. Alice decides to take steps to provide for her own care. She has been an independently-minded person all her life and does not wish to be a burden to her extended family.

With some help and following an ACAT assessment, she chooses a low-care home. The facility she finally decides on has great promotional material showing many happy faces. The building is pleasant and one of the features promised by the home is ageing-in-place.

This seems like a good idea. Alice doesn’t want another difficult move at her stage of life...

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