It has come as no surprise to anyone with experience of aged care in Australia, that our aged care industry is problematic. Issues of negligence, elder abuse, inadequate/faulty equipment and severe short staffing have horrified advocates for elderly people and those with loved ones relying on the system to care for them.
Though the recent Royal Commission reports have uncovered many troublesome areas, three are earmarked for immediate action: the lack of Home Care Packages actually available; the use of chemical restraints; and young people with disabilities stranded in aged care facilities. This is, of course, positive, but the question is, can these things truly improve within the confines of the resources actually available? Is it a bit of a ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg’ scenario?
Firstly, Home Care Packages. A wonderful resource with good intentions - and many of our users on Careseekersare doing so with the help of one. Sadly however, there’s not enough funding currently to provide enough of them and 120,000 people are on the wait list. Happily for those waiting, the commission is recommending increased funding for more packages - very welcome news! Concerns have been raised that there won't be enough appropriately skilled workers to satisfy the increased demand for home care package services, but we are not worried about that! Through the wonders of technology, we at Careseekers are able to galvanise a work force of care workers across Australia, ready to provide the support required. Prime Minister, if you are listening - we feel confident that our platform will help many thousands more older people stay at home with quality support.... so please get going on releasing that funding!
Next, the commission advised a reduction in the use of chemical restraint. It found that only 10% of cases of chemical restraint on an elderly person were actually necessary. So, their recommendation is to increase access to and usage of the ‘Residential Medication Management Review’, which allows a pharmacist to examine and advise on medication usage for aged care residents. Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually address what leads to the use of chemical restraint in the first place – inadequately trained staff, not enough staff in the first place, and a culture that widely accepts the practice of administering anti psychotics, antidepressants and sedatives to ‘control’ aged care residents.
Finally, the commission suggests focusing, with priority, on the plight of young people forced into aged care facilities. They want to quicken the process of relocating those already in residential aged care to community living, and to put a stop to young people with a disability being placed in aged care at all. Whilst these are proposals that no one could fail to support, putting them into action is another story. Despite detailed investigations over the past 20 years, and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the amount of young people living in aged care facilities has not decreased. What is really needed are many new housing developments and services that accommodate young people with disabilities, and that will require extensive funding, planning and time.
It’s clear that the Royal Commission is attempting to force change in a very troubled system and that can only be a good thing. What must be faced up to and (hopefully) addressed wholeheartedly by the government, is that aged care in this country is deeply lacking in funds and we need a mountain of adequate resources poured into it.