New research from National Seniors Australia has shown 60 per cent of older Australians have never heard of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, and 65 per cent feel there are no options to complain.
The alarming statistics come as the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety are being decided and amid further revelations from the ABC’s Four Corners program of shocking physical abuse and neglect of aged care residents, along with failures in the complaints processes.
National Seniors’ Interim CEO and research director Professor John McCallum said today the new research showed many older Australians lacked the knowledge, skill and motivation to access aged care services, including where to lodge complaints.
The research also revealed:
- 70 per cent had never looked at the My Aged Care website
- 85 per cent had never phoned the government service, which aims to make it easier for older people, their families and carers to access information on ageing and aged care
- 80 per cent didn’t understand how consumer contributions to aged care were assessed.
Prof. McCallum said the research clearly showed older Australians needed to become more literate in aged care matters.
“If they don’t, many Australians will be caught out when they need to access care, let alone if they must deal with the types of neglect and abuse issues we’re facing now,” Prof. McCallum said.
“The absolute goal is to have zero tolerance for the types of endemic problems that have been revealed recently, many of which have surfaced since the introduction of unannounced accreditation assessments.
“Consumers can help drive change by becoming better informed, and providers and government need to assist in developing consumer knowledge and literacy, so information is more readily accessible.
“After experiencing the aged care sector, one of the main issues for consumers and their families is the feeling that complaining about services will lead to retribution. Many who have worked in the sector vow to never use its services if they can avoid it, because they are so scarred by their experiences.”
Prof. McCallum said National Seniors was recommending the Royal Commission look at how the education process could be improved.
“As well as a quality and complaints system that works, we need the government and providers to communicate the processes available better,” he said.
“One of the inadvertent consequences of the Four Corners program and the Royal Commission is the negative image of aged care homes is reinforced. Sadly, some bad players in the industry tar the good ones with the same brush!
“But the reality is some people are going to need residential care when they reach old age, so we must ensure they meet the required standard, that people can learn how to access the information they need quickly and easily, and they can complain without fear of retribution or being ignored.”
The research report, You don’t know what you don’t know: The current state of Australian aged care literacy, is available here.
Interim CEO Professor John McCallum is available for comment.
Media contact: Lynda Schekoske (07) 3233 9134 or 0488 047 380.