Time we im­proved aged care

Lawyer calls for elderly fees re­form

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS | COLUMN - — Deb­bie Sage, Wills and Es­tates JUS­TICE PRE­VAILS

THE sto­ries com­ing out of the aged care sec­tor are heart-wrench­ing and we haven’t even opened the Aged Care Royal Com­mis­sion yet.

With pub­lic sub­mis­sions into the pro­posed terms of ref­er­ence re­cently clos­ing, I re­flected on my ex­pe­ri­ence to make a sub­mis­sion.

Help­ing fam­i­lies as a Wills and En­dur­ing Power of At­tor­ney, I have vis­ited many nurs­ing homes and have first-hand knowl­edge of how the sec­tor works.

While most aged care fa­cil­i­ties do the right thing, there is a frac­tion who use ex­or­bi­tant nurs­ing home ‘exit fees’.

These fees, which can be as high as 40 per cent of the ini­tial price of a home or unit, ex­ploit the elderly and rob them of their life sav­ings af­ter they have passed away.

I have ne­go­ti­ated on be­half of dozens of elderly clients and ben­e­fi­cia­ries to stop nurs­ing homes from charg­ing these fees.

With­out the help of a lawyer, these exit fees are typ­i­cally only de­tected af­ter an elderly per­son has died – much to the shock of be­reaved ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

In ad­di­tion to exit fees, some fa­cil­i­ties charge ‘re­fur­bish­ment fees’ to ren­o­vate or ‘mod­ernise’ rooms or units for the next per­son to move in.

In many in­stances these re­fur­bish­ment fees are grossly un­fair.

A re­cent Attwood Mar­shall Lawyers ne­go­ti­a­tion led to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced costs for an elderly Gold Coast woman who wanted to move into a fa­cil­ity with her pet.

Her exit fees, be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tion, were in ex­cess of $90,0000 for up to one year of oc­cu­pa­tion, and $150,000 if she oc­cu­pied her unit for two years or more.

In a North­ern NSW case, an aged care fa­cil­ity told us an exit fee of $20,000 was owed to re­fur­bish a kitchen, car­pets, wall paint and blinds.

As the ex­ecu­tor, we re­fused, with trades­men com­plet­ing the works for $8000 in­stead.

Such cases show a Royal Com­mis­sion into the Aged Care sec­tor is long over­due.

My pub­lic sub­mis­sion into the pro­posed terms of ref­er­ence called for a re­view of exit fees, re­fur­bish­ment fees and ex­tra services charges.

Elderly peo­ple are vul­ner­a­ble – some have de­men­tia or other ill­nesses which pre­vent them from mak­ing con­sid­ered de­ci­sions – this can lead to ex­ploita­tion.

Many elderly clients have signed com­plex nurs­ing home con­tracts or leases with­out le­gal ad­vice, and are urged to do so by some un­scrupu­lous pro­pri­etors.

Seek­ing proper le­gal ad­vice be­fore sign­ing or en­ter­ing into these agree­ments should be manda­tory.

It is also critical that manda­tory staff-to-pa­tient ra­tios are im­ple­mented, per­for­mance data be­comes pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble, and a pro-ac­tive com­plaints author­ity or om­buds­man is estab­lished.

The sec­tor must be made ac­count­able – we need to im­prove the stan­dard of care for our older gen­er­a­tion.


ELDERLY CARE: Deb­bie Sage says exit fees and other ex­or­bi­tant fees need to be bet­ter reg­u­lated in the aged care sec­tor.

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