Why aged care needs reform

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

Albert Einstein

The aged care system does not work for older people who need care and support.

The problems in aged care are due, in part, to the Aged Care Act. Nowhere in the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) is there a clear statement of the approved provider’s basic responsibility to ensure that the care provided to older people is safe and of high quality.

We need an Aged Care Act that focuses on the human rights of older people, not the profits of providers.

Over the past 20 years, there have been repeated reviews of aspects of the aged care system. While not obliged to adopt all recommendations of a review, governments have tended to respond with piecemeal reforms which have not resolved the fundamental problems.

In 2018, the government announced a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Of the 10,203 public submissions, the following concerns were most commonly raised:

  • Neglect 39%
  • Emotional abuse 21%
  • Physical abuse or assault 15%
  • Restrictive practices 13%
  • Financial abuse 13%; and
  • Sexual abuse/assault 3%.

This confirms that high quality aged care is not being delivered on a systemic level. Although some aged care providers provide excellent services, others do not.

The Counsel Assisting the Royal Commissioners made a final submission. Although they made a strong case for structural reform, many of their recommendations failed to address the human rights of older people.

It has been estimated that at least one in five people receiving residential aged care has experienced substandard care. Imagine if one in five children received substandard care in childcare centres. We would all be marching in the streets.

The only aspect of in-home care that makes the news is the long queue for home care packages. What is flying under the radar is the commodification of older people, the rorting in the system, inconsistent quality of care, and support workers with minimal or sometimes no training being sent to the homes of older people.

We need the community to demand aged care reform so that older people have the best quality of life possible.

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