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A merry year in review

There were some huge news events this year, making 2019 probably one of the most important and transformative years for aged care and older Australians.

This year was full of huge news events and stories, Talking Aged Care can't wait to see what 2020 brings! [Source: Shutterstock]
This year was full of huge news events and stories, Talking Aged Care can't wait to see what 2020 brings! [Source: Shutterstock]

Here is Talking Aged Care’s year in review of the biggest news stories from 2019!

In January, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety launched its website and contact details and was officially open for business.

This was the beginning of the Commission related news for January, with Commissioners warning the Government and aged care providers they would be dealing harshly with any organisation or group that refused to provide information or prevented someone from speaking out. 

In other areas, the Government provided heavy investment into dementia and Parkinson’s research during January

In February, ahead of the first Royal Commission hearing, the Government announced a $662 million funding boost to cover residential aged care and Home Care Packages. 

The first official hearing of the Royal Commission happened in February with Commissioners hearing there was a “significant imbalance of power between recipient[s] and provider[s]”. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also received more support from the Government through a $60 million investment into the expansion of a flexible aged care program in remote Australia. 

In March, consumer peak body, National Seniors Australia, called for Government reforms to assist with the rising costs of health care so older Australians could continue accessing private health insurance. 

The Government proposed a website to combat “bill shock” and to show the true cost of specialist fees before older people went to their appointments. 

It was also campaign season in March, with peak bodies petitioning Government parties to commit stronger policies to aged care

In Royal Commission news, one of the March hearings received evidence from a witness who described the My Aged Care process as “waiting for people to die”

In April, the Federal Budget for 2019-20 was released ahead of the May election. And while it was welcomed by peak bodies, they also received criticism about being a missed opportunity for positive aged care boosts. 

It was expected that 4,000 lives would be claimed in Australia during flu season because of projections from the Immunisation Coalition. 

DPS made a big announcement in April with a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) coming on board to pave the future for the aged care and disability multimedia company. 

Another theme in April was around housing. Talking Aged Care reported on the shortage of affordable rentals for older Australians and a new housing project providing a home to older homeless women, receiving an industry award for the initiative. 

May was election month, where peak bodies began to get worried around the deafening silence from both major parties around aged care policies and commitments. And after a Leaders Debate in May between the two major parties, peak bodies were unhappy with the absence of aged care mentions. 

Following the re-election of the Liberal Government, there was a Cabinet reshuffle and Australia had a new Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Robert Colbeck. With the former minister with those portfolios, Ken Wyatts, becoming Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The Royal Commission focused on restraint practises in aged care during May, finding there were concerning high levels of different restraints used on older people in Australian aged care facilities. 

In June, there was an increase to the Minimum Wage and Modern Award, which received a concerned response from industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), because of the staffing cost implications on services. 

A new research paper from the University of South Australia found that the use of psychotropic medications doubles the risk of falls and hip fractures. 

One of the first intergenerational living studies was trialled in Australia, with a group of young university students moving into the Cooinda Aged Care Gympie facility in Queensland to spend time with elderly residents while receiving cheaper accommodation during their time at university. 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is in June, putting a spotlight on neglect and abuse directed at older Australians. 

The new Aged Care Quality Standards came into effect at the beginning of July, kickstarting the aged care industry into a new age of higher quality care for consumers. 

A research study found that most people over 40 had at least five undiagnosed health problems, while data from the Government revealed an increasing number of people were waiting for a Home Care Package at their approved level of care. 

One of the most shocking reports for July was the mass nurse walk out of an aged care facility in Queensland, causing an emergency response from the State, commonly seen during natural disasters like floods or bush fires. 

In August, new research released from multiple universities across America, England and Australia, found that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the genetic risk of developing dementia

The Royal Commission heard from witnesses blaming problems in the aged care sector on the Government and their inaction over the last decade.

The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds series launched on ABC television in August, receiving praise from viewers around the importance of the social experiment and the impact the children had on the elderly participants. 

Another report from a not-for-profit aged care provider revealed that university students were unlikely to consider aged care as a career, furthering the unglamorous view of the industry. 

In SeptemberDementia Action Week challenged peoples perceptions of dementia in Australia and the discrimination that comes from it. 

A new study found that many older Australians were retiring while still paying off their mortgage, putting extra housing and financial stress on elderly people. 

During the Royal Commission, there was an extensive look into young people with disability living in aged care facilities. The revelations of the lonely life in a nursing home for younger people with disability was astounding to the Commissioners. 

October saw a lot of new reports released, including research finding that New South Wales aged care residents were more likely to be hospitalised if there were low staffing or skill levels at the nursing home where they receded. 

The ABC dedicated an entire episode of the Q&A focussed on the aged care sector, bringing hot debate around staffing ratios, food quality, dementia support and accreditation. 

A sad day for the Royal Commission, Commissioner Richard Tracey passed away in October after a recent cancer diagnosis. 

At the end of October, the Australian Institute of Family Studies announced the largest-scale study into the prevalence of elder abuse in the country with the aim of the research to assess the nature of elder abuse and how wide-spread it is in Australia. 

A brand new publication focusing on all things Home Care also hit the market when DPS released the DPS Guide to Home Care.

In November, the Royal Commission finally released the long-awaited Interim Report, highlighting three key areas to be fixed immediately. The report was critical of the inaction from Government and called for change. 

The Government responded to the Commissioner’s report providing a further $527 million to the industry for Home Care Packages. 

Following the Interim Report, Government announced a push towards older Australians remaining in the workforce for longer, receiving mixed responses from industry peak bodies. The aim of keeping older people in the workforce for longer was to help stave off the burden more elderly Australians would have on the future economy.

In December, the peak bodies made an end of year appeal to the Government to provide more funding to aged care to prevent a 2020 industry emergency. 

The final hearing of the year for the Royal Commission looked into what makes best practice aged care and how that can be rolled out throughout the industry. 

And that sums up the biggest news of the year! 

A big Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Talking Aged Care team and we’re looking forward to bringing you more aged care news in 2020!

What did you think we missed from this year’s round-up?

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