Mildura was host to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearing between July 29 and 31. According to senior counsel assisting the commission, Peter Gray, QC, the town was selected because of the city’s ageing population, opportunity to examine the experiences of carers in a regional area which has a high demand for aged care.
2016 statistics show 19.1 percent of Mildura’s population was made up of people aged 65 years and over, compared to 15.7 per cent of the Australian population over 65.
The public hearing looked at the needs of family, informal and unpaid carers for older Australians, with a focus on:
- the extent to which current arrangements meet those needs
- how services and supports for carers could be improved
- respite care.
Bonney’s and Nicole’s stories
“When Mum dies, I will know I’ve done everything I possibly could.” Bonney cares for her mum Beryl at home. She was one of a number of witnesses who gave evidence to the Commission.
Nicole Dunn, spoke about moving in with her grandmother to care for her for 18 months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nicole said she wanted to and needed to care for her Nana. But it came at a cost with Nicole having to move from full time to part time work. She was in her early 30s and her world shrank because her friends were doing very different things. Nicole also outlined the struggles she encountered seeking financial and care assistance from government agencies.
Negative impacts on carers
Catherine Thomson, research fellow from the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, told the Commission that “carers have much lower social and emotional well-being compared to non-carers”. As women undertake the largest share of unpaid caring work, women disproportionately experience the financial impacts associated with caring.
According to Carers Australia, there are about 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia. Many primary carers are women in their 50s, although it’s estimated that one in 10 people caring for a family member is under 25. The median weekly income of carers at 42 per cent lower than that of non-carers.
On the second day, a panel outlined the aged care system’s failure to recognise ‘hidden carers’. There was a call for aged care services to be brought under the one umbrella and regulated by one institution in a co-ordinated fashion.
On day three of the Mildura Royal Commission hearing, respite care was discussed. A panel of aged care CEOs discussed the importance of respite care to the community, including carers.
Government chief bureaucrats highlighted the need for increasing awareness of the supports available to informal carers.
Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission said the evidence suggested serious shortcomings in the practical effect of Government policies in relation to carers.
Next hearing – Brisbane
The next hearing takes place in Brisbane on August 5-9 and will focus on aged care regulation.
Has this happened to you or a loved one?
If you or a loved one has been subject to any of these issues or general poor-quality care in an aged care facility you can approach the Royal Commission to provide evidence. Our expert, caring health law and elder law team members can also help you to determine if there is a case to seek justice or compensation. Making formal complaints or litigating is an effective way to force aged care facilities to change poor practices for you, your loved one, and other people.