Why is it that older people lose their agency when they move into residential aged care?

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We invited members of our community to share their experiences and perspectives of aged care services. Disclaimer: These stories have not been independently verified. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of Aged Care Reform Now and are shared for information purposes only.

My step-mother recently moved into aged care in a rural community-based not-for-profit facility. The staff are wonderful, they respect her, they get her. Although she has poor vision she has managed to learn the staffs’ names, by recognising their voices and their clothes. And she then alphabetised their names in her head. No-one has names beginning with  I, J and K. 

But if they want to know what she thinks they ring her son. She recently got stuck on the bed, “like a beached whale” and they ring her son. Why is it that older people lose their agency when they move into residential aged care? Shouldn’t she need to consent for her son to be advised? Consumer consent doesn’t seem to be embedded into the system and family members automatically become the spokesperson. 

They also had a sensor mat on her chair. If she moved the staff would be alerted. What if she fell? This meant she felt compelled to stay on her chair as she didn’t want to bother the staff. She couldn’t walk the five metres to the toilet. I encouraged her to speak to her GP to have the sensor mat removed but finally, I spoke to the staff. I also overruled her agency as I couldn’t help myself. They removed the chair sensor. It wasn’t restraint but it wasn’t right.


Image credit Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

If this story caused sadness or distress, please reach out for help.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au
Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

Do you need to lodge a complaint? We have information on which government agency to contact, and how to explore legal support here: https://agedcarereformnow.com.au/resolving-complaints/where-to-make-an-aged-care-complaint/

Do you need support? OPAN provides free services to support older people and their representatives address issues related to Commonwealth-funded aged care services and informs people of their rights and responsibilities: 1800 700 600 or opan.com.au

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