Aged care cru­elty bomb­shell

Re­port de­tails wide­spread ne­glect, drug­ging and as­saults

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - NATASHA BITA

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’’.

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