With an unexpected pandemic hitting the shores of Australia, the aged care sector faced one of the most complicated health events the new modern world has ever seen. Providers were pushed to extreme restrictions and rigorous personal hygiene.
Through all of the lows of this year, there have also been a lot of highs with Australian communities pulling together to support their older loved ones through a really challenging year.
Talking Aged Care has wrapped up the top news stories from 2020, ranging from new developments with the Aged Care Royal Commission to the latest funding boosts for the aged care sector.
The spread of the new virus, COVID-19, overturned everyone's plans for 2020, bringing countries industries and economies to a standstill. The aged care sector had to bravely march through the difficulties of the pandemic, incorporating tough restrictions with the aim to prevent the coronavirus from entering nursing home facilities.
COVID-19 heavily impacted the finances of aged care providers, leading to the Government providing stimulus packages and other funding to help organisations through the difficult period.
People were eager to read any information they could about COVID-19, including how to protect themselves and others against the virus. Talking Aged Care created a dedicated COVID-19 page to inform and educate readers on how to best protect themselves against the virus and providing up to date information from the Federal Government.
In late October, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety received proposal recommendations and a final submission from Counsel Assisting outlining the huge reform the aged care sector requires to provide quality care to older Australians.
The Commission also released COVID-19 recommendations for aged care that had to be immediately actioned by the Federal Government before December.
Peak bodies were excited that dementia was at the forefront of the Government's mind with multiple dementia research projects receiving funding.
During Dementia Action Week and World Alzheimer's Day in September, a spotlight was put on the struggles and discrimination that many people face when living with dementia, including exclusion by family and friends.
Aged care in Parliament
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, made himself well known to the Australian population following multiple public gaffs.
During his time in a Senate Committee hearing, Minister Colbeck was unable to recall the number of older Australians that had died in aged care due from COVID-19, and he caused hot debate when he appeared on ABC's Q&A to discuss the state of the aged care sector.
As of last week, the aged care portfolio was moved up to Cabinet during Prime Minister Scott Morrison's recent Cabinet reshuffle.
Research, reports, and reviews
Recent research revealed that Government-run aged care facilities had better quality indicators averages than non-for-profit and for-profit organisations. This report was commissioned by the Aged Care Royal Commission, who stated that this study was the most detailed profile of aged care quality in Australia.
An aged care financial report card released by StewartBrown highlighted that the aged care sector has reached a record financial risk levelwithout COVID-19 being a factor. These report cards are undertaken monthly; steadily the financial risk of aged care providers have been increasing over the last couple of years.
After sitting on the recommendations tabled in July, the Federal Government finally released the review findings for revamping the retirement income system in Australia. While the current system is effective and relatively stable, the review did find that there was a lot of room for improvement.
Top reader choices
Most of the readers top stories for 2020 were COVID-19 focussed, as many people wanted to understand the implications of the virus and how it might affect their older loved ones.
The Federal Government released protection measures for older Australians in February when coronavirus reached Australian shores. These recommendations included self-isolation for people over the age of 60, or people over the age of 50 if they have prior health conditions or were Indigenous Australia.
In March, many aged care facilities went into lockdown during the height of COVID-19 in a bid to protect their residents, Prime Minister Scott Morrison even announced that the Federal Government potentially may enact temporary lockdowns.
While aged care lockdowns were later rolled back for being too harsh on aged care residents, Prime Minister Scott Morrison still had to deliver an ultimatum to aged care providers in April in regards to unnecessarily strong aged care restrictions that some providers were reportedly still enforcing even though they were not in COVID-19 hot spots.
Readers really wanted to understand how the COVID-19 aged care restrictions worked, including how to support their older loved ones who were in isolation. There was a range of tips from aged care provider, Group Homes, on how to best improve the mental health of older people in care through technology, like video calls.
TAC readers were also very interested in finding out what age is considered old! One of the most popular articles for the year, a discord was struck between readers discussing what is considered 'old' along with their own personal experiences of age and ageing.
That sums up some of the biggest stories of the year for 2020! A big Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Talking Aged Care team.
What do you think were the biggest stories of 2020? Let us know in the comments below!