Are you aware that dementia is the second leading cause of death among Australians, but aged care workers are not required to be trained in the disease or in caring for patients?
That was some of the surprising evidence National Seniors CEO and Research Director Professor John McCallum told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which kicked off in Adelaide earlier this week.
Professor McCallum did not mince words telling the commissioners that abuse of elders, especially in residential facilities, would continue if there was no change.
“We’ve seen some dreadful examples of older and frail aged care residents with dementia being physically abused by care workers who clearly have no idea how to respond to what they believe is ‘bad behaviour’.
“We have the means to prevent this happening, and to make life much better for care recipients - and caregivers. So, it’s high time to make this training compulsory,” he said.
Training would lift the professionalism of the aged care workforce by delivering the skills and understanding necessary to provide quality care and improve the experiences of people in care and their carers.
Let’s plan smarter
Professor McCallum also addressed another chronic issue: long waiting lists for home care packages for people choosing to age in their own homes.
While welcoming the federal government’s latest injection of funds he said piecemeal funding was not the solution.
“Only a new funding model will eliminate these massive waiting lists, especially given demand will only grow with our ageing population,” he said.
In a formal submission, National Seniors told the Royal Commission the impacts of Australia’s ageing population were flagged as early as the 1980s. While policy innovations had been introduced since, the resources needed had never been adequately planned or delivered, despite some unprecedented boom times.
National Seniors says the Royal Commission is in a unique position to deal with this evident failure and help stem elder neglect and abuse by helping ensure there will be adequate public and private investment in well-managed, good quality services.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death among Australians, with more than 430,000 living with the various forms of the illness. That figure is expected to rise to close to 600,000 by 2028.
126,000 people are waiting for home care packages. National Seniors is calling for an immediate injection of government funding to eliminate this waiting list.