Aged care dementia training must be compulsory: National Seniors

Dementia training for aged care workers must be made compulsory or abuse in the sector would continue, leading advocacy group National Seniors Australia CEO Professor John McCallum said today.  

Professor McCallum, who was among witnesses to appear at the first public hearings at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Adelaide, said with the prevalence of dementia in the community and the availability of dementia training courses for aged care workers, it was surprising it was not already compulsory.

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.

Professor McCallum said mandatory dementia training for aged care workers would prevent a lot of abuse because they would understand how it affects people’s behaviour and give workers the skills to provide appropriate care. It would also improve the experiences of people in care who were not handled badly but inexpertly.

“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’,” Professor McCallum said.

“We have the means to prevent this happening, and to make life much better for care recipients - and care givers. So, it’s high time to make this training compulsory.”

Professor McCallum said documenting, measuring and improving consumer experiences of aged care was the primary focus of National Seniors’ research and advocacy.

It had also recently become part of the work of regulators, with a report from the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency last August showing 97% of survey respondents felt staff treated them with respect all or most of the time; 84% liked the food; and 98% felt safe most or all the time.

These findings were in stark contrast to submissions to the Royal Commission and to National Seniors with many older people and their families highlighting the fear of retribution if they complained about services; poor treatment from staff; insufficient staff; and poor food.

“We have to address these shortcomings because that’s the only way older Australians will receive the quality of care they deserve,” Professor McCallum said.

Media contact: Lynda Schekoske 0488 047 380 or 07 3233 9134.

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