Commission gives hope for better aged care

By National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum

Recently completed research by National Seniors found older Australians believe their views are not being heard or respected when major government decisions are made.

Titled Respect for Age: Going, Going or Gone? Views of Older Australians, the report found 74% of seniors believe their age qualifies them for respect from younger people.

As indicated by Commissioner Lynelle Briggs at today’s first hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, respect hasn’t been evident in the rising torrent of concerns about abuse and neglect.

So, it was reassuring to hear Commissioner Briggs and Commissioner Richard Tracey emphasise older Australians deserved respect. The Commissioners noted older citizens were the people who shaped Australia.

The Commissioners told the hearing the perspectives of people receiving care, their close family and friends would be central to the landmark inquiry.

Commissioner Tracey said the royal commission was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come together as a nation and create a better system of care for older Australians.

“The hallmark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable people and our elderly are often among our most physically, emotionally and financially vulnerable,” he said. “Frail and elderly members of our community deserve to, and should, be looked after in the best possible way and we intend to do our best to see that happens.”

Today’s hearing was held in Adelaide, where shocking treatment of residents at the Oakden aged care facility was one of the triggers for the Royal Commission, which will deliver an interim report in 31 October 2019 and a final report by 30 April 2020.

The Commissioners said hearings would be held in capital cities and other centres, and extensive consultations, research, roundtables and background papers would also be undertaken to ensure people, especially those receiving care, were given a voice.

Public submissions would be important to the inquiry’s work, which would not replicate the many enquiries, reviews and reports that had gone before, but would take their findings into account.

It had already received more than 300 submissions from the public and another 5000 submissions made to the Department of Health before the Commission’s Terms of Reference were made public would also be considered.

The task for the Commission now is to review the failings of the past and to make real and tangible improvements so we have compassionate, high quality aged care that is secure and sustainable. As this landmark inquiry continues, I encourage our members and others who have what the Commission described as ‘living experience’ of our aged care system – both residential and in their own homes – to tell us your stories or make a submission direct to the Royal Commission.

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