There was no let-up in newsmaking by National Seniors Australia this week, leading the way on two very important issues.
The first was around the unacceptable number of older Australians dying on the waiting list for home care packages.
The second was the need for seniors’ finances to be better protected from scammers and abusers.
We began the week with an insightful article by veteran journalist Mike Seccombe, the National Correspondent at The Saturday Paper.
His story, titled ‘How Seniors Became our Most Fierce Lobby’, was a post mortem of sorts, about the people power older Australians harnessed at the last election.
This included the campaign against Labor’s changes to franking credits, which National Seniors played a prominent role in.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke told Seccombe, “One in three voters is over 60… That’s our catchcry.”
Seccombe observed, “Politics has long held that older voters are not mobilised, but that was no longer true.”
There was further evidence this week of the inadequate response by the Federal Government to the waiting list for older Australians needing home care packages.
New figures show the list has blown out to almost 130,000, with 1,000 added in the past six months.
It follows the startling figure revealed by the Aged Care Royal Commission of more than 16,000 older Australians dying while still on the waiting list in just 12 months.
The release of these new figures coincided with this week’s National Elder Abuse Conference in Brisbane, where National Senuors was a partner, exhibitor and where Professor John McCallum spoke about scams.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke, who attended the conference, responded to the latest figures.
“Neglect is a form of abuse and what we’re seeing here, is a form of institutionalised neglect,” he said.
The issue was reported in News Corp’s Sunday papers, with Ian advocating a complete rethink on how government should address the waiting list.
“The people who are on waiting lists and are dying before they get assistance are someone’s loved one,” he said.
“They are in a fragile stage of their life and want to stay in their own home, and the people caring for them also need help.”
The figures also revealed that more than 13,000 people on the waiting list had been placed into nursing care.
During a radio interview with Ian Henschke on Perth’s 6PR, one caller rang in to express his frustration at the waiting list, which saw his mother placed into nursing care, only to die before she could access a home care package.
Ian Henschke told the media the appalling figures shows a disrespectful lack of urgency to address the chronic shortage of home care packages across Australia.
National Seniors CEO, Professor John McCallum told the National Elder Abuse Conference of the need for better financial protection for older Australians from abusers and scammers.
He called for national standardised powers of attorney and a national register to stop abusers fleecing older Australians.
“Banks are training staff to help them pick up signals of financial abuse, but a determined abuser won’t be deterred by one knockback – they’ll simply move along to another branch or bank,” Professor McCallum said.
“What we need, as a matter of urgency, is a national safety net for the most vulnerable.”
“Of respondents aged 80 plus, who are usually described as ‘left behind’ by these technologies, we found that over half who responded to this online survey used an internet search engine every day,” said Professor McCallum.
“More than 50 per cent did online banking at least once a week - if not daily, over 30 per cent group text every day, and nearly 20 per cent are on Facebook every day.”
National Seniors Australia CEO, Professor John McCallum speaking at the National Elder Abuse Conference breakfast in Brisbane.