The first Melbourne hearing inquired into younger people in residential aged care, with a focus on impact, drivers and appropriateness of allocation policy as well as how to best support young people wishing to leave residential aged care. The Commission received 6,022 submissions from the public, of which about 10 per cent raised concerns about younger people living in aged care facilities.
The Commission heard that 42 young Australians enter aged care facilities every week, adding up to 2,000 young people per year.
The national Younger People Residential Aged Care action plan aims to support those under 45 by 2022, and those under 64 by 2025. Council assisting the Commission said the action plan relied too heavily on “market forces” and government intervention was needed. A Senate committee report in 2015 called for a database of younger Australians living in aged care to be compiled, but this has not yet happened.
This hearing shows the issues facing younger people inappropriately trapped in aged care, which also has implications for aged care staff and other residents.
In a fiery conclusion to evidence from the federal Health Department, Commissioner Lynelle Briggs, dubbed the current system a “national disgrace”.
Lisa’s story – young person with a disability
Lisa Corcoran, is 42. She went into an aged care facility aged 37. She gave evidence to the Commission about her struggle with living in aged care as a young person with a disability. She was accompanied by her speech pathologist, Jodie Chard, who translated on her behalf due to Ms Corcoran’s communication difficulties. She explained multiple occasions of fighting for basic rights for herself, including battling management to be able to have a shower every two days instead of once a week. She said she has been sexually assaulted, punched and pinched by staff.
She finds aged care services emotionally draining due to her condition and the nursing home’s inability to provide appropriate care to her.
“My number one goal is to get the f*** out of the nursing home,” she told the hearing!
“My number two goal is to hug my children. My number three goal is to communicate better.”
Luckily, she is about to move to supported accommodation and is currently counting down the days until she moves.
She believes that her daughters and grandchildren will visit more, because the supported accommodation won’t be as scary as the aged care home.
Caroline’s story – her husband had no alternative but aged care after a Stroke
Another witness, Catherine Roche, had to place her husband, Michael Burge, into a high care nursing home when he suffered a stroke in his 50s. There was nowhere else for Michael to go.
“In aged care, Michael spent most of his time in his small room as he was wheelchair-bound and could not really leave without help from someone. There, he had had any limited remaining independence and choice stripped from him,” Caroline told the Commission.
Michael died in November in 2017.
ABC TV 7.30 interview with BUPA CEO
Meanwhile, the problems within the aged care sector were also highlighted in an ABC TV 7.30 story last week.
The CEO of the largest private provider of aged care facilities, BUPA, apologised “unreservedly” for care failures across its network of 72 aged care facilities and pledged to fix problems in failing homes within months.
In an interview with 7.30’s Leigh Sales, Hisham El-Ansary said the ABC’s coverage of shocking incidences in Bupa facilities were “totally unacceptable”.
“We are capable of much better, and we are working very hard to restore confidence in the services that we deliver across 72 homes and 6,500 residents.”
Bupa is Australia’s biggest private aged care chain but an analysis of its accreditation reports shows more than 60 per cent of its homes are failing basic standards of care and 30 per cent are putting the health and safety of the elderly at “serious risk”.
Mr El-Ansary said in the interview that Bupa only considered 18 of its homes out of the 72 as “falling short of standards”.
But, Bupa received nearly half a billion dollars in government funding last year for its aged care facilities. And, the Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck revealed that his department had been meeting with Bupa management weekly to fix dozens of non-compliance issues across the provider’s properties.
This highlights our concerns that the Aged Care Act has meant that the aged care sector is dominated by for profit corporations at the expense of resident care and safety . The Act must be reviewed!
The next hearing will also be in Melbourne on October 7,8,9 and 11. It will focus on diversity in aged care including culturally and linguistically diverse people, LGBTI groups, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, care leavers, veterans, and the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.