Aged care cruelty bombshell
Report details widespread neglect, drugging and assaults
A “CRUEL and shameful’’ aged care system is abusing elderly Australians in a “shocking tale of neglect’’, a heartbreaking Royal Commission report revealed yesterday.
The year-long inquiry, which exposed “horrifying assaults”, “dreadful food’’ and residents left in their own faeces, has concluded that a neglectful aged care sector “diminishes Australia as a nation’’.
“This cruel and harmful system must be changed,’’ the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety concludes in a 792-page interim report tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday. “It is unkind and uncaring towards [older people and] in too many instances, it simply neglects them.’’
It says nursing homes notified the federal Health Department of 4013 cases of alleged physical or sexual assault against residents last financial year, and a quarter to half of residents are malnourished.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Aged Care Minister, Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck, yesterday said the Government would spend $21.7 billion on aged care this financial year but had “work to do’’ to fix the system.
“We are shocked by the stories that have arisen but we must and we will learn from them,’’ they said.
Royal Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs concluded that “substandard care is much more widespread and more serious than we had anticipated’’.
“We have seen images of people with maggots feeding in open sores and we have seen video and photographic evidence of outright abuse,’’ they say in the report, titled Neglect.
The Royal Commission report exposes “inhumane, abusive and unjustified’’ restraint and doping of the elderly to make them easier to manage by a “poorly skilled, underpaid workforce under pressure’’.
It warns “people are dying on the waiting list’’ for aged care, and demands more taxpayer funding for in-home care, which has a queue of 120,000 people.
A failure to help elderly stay living in their own homes is a “cruel and discriminatory system, which places great strain on older Australians and their relatives’’, the report says.
“It is unfair. Older people should receive the home care services they need to live safely at home,’’ it says.
“It is shocking that the express wishes of older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, with the supports they need, is downplayed with an expectation that they will manage. It is unsafe practice. It is neglect.’’
The Royal Commission demanded “swift action’’ to relocate 6000 young people with disabilities who have been left to live in homes for the aged, blaming to a “lack of will and effort’’ to find alternatives.
The Royal Commission has called on aged care homes to stop tying down residents or doping them with unnecessary medications to make them “easier to manage’’.
It found 61 per cent of residents are doped with antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs, despite only 10 per cent requiring sedation.
Elderly people in nursing homes, as well as those receiving care in their homes, told the Royal Commission of their “feelings of frustration, despair and hopelessness’’.
The commissioners lashed out at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, saying they were “flabbergasted’’ that it had used computer-generated reports in quality audits.
Leading Age Services Australia, representing for-profit providers, said the explosive report was a “beacon for immediate reform’’.