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Landmark OPAN report reveals unacceptable aged care experiences over last year

A new report from the Older Person's Advocacy Network (OPAN), the peak body for advocacy for older Australians, has unveiled the unacceptable and confronting aged care experiences older people have endured in 2020-21.

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In 2020-21, older people faced a number of issues while accessing the Australian aged care sector, found an OPAN report. [Source: Shutterstock]

The report, The National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) 2020-2021: Raising the voice of people accessing aged care, is the first public annual report to capture the stories of older people who have accessed and engaged with the Australian aged care system.

Common problems older people faced over the last year include unwanted admission to residential aged care, increased risk of abuse due to COVID-19 restrictions, lack of available assessment services, and long wait times for support.

Chief Executive Officer of OPAN, Craig Gear OAM, says the report highlights that there are still issues that were raised at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety that need to be addressed and improved in the aged care system.

"We acknowledge the Australian Government’s commitment to transform the aged care system and we’re pleased to see its significant investment in the May budget as a big first step," says Mr Gear.

"It is important to acknowledge that while the transformation of the aged care system has begun, it is not yet fixed, and older people are still enduring confronting experiences.

"The issues our aged care advocates are seeing are impacting significantly on older people and we feel compelled to raise their voices to inform the change that is needed."

Mr Gear adds that the report reinforces the need for further investment and transformation in the aged care system, as well as highlighting the importance of aged care advocacy services and the work they do.

OPAN intends to continue working closely with the Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and aged care providers to address these concerns to ensure older people's voices are being heard and respected.

The organisation dealt with 8,826 advocacy cases and provided information and advocacy around elder abuse in 2,344 instances in 2020-21.

The NACAP Report identified eight problem areas, which included:

  • Quality of care, care planning and security of tenure in residential care

  • COVID-19 related issues, like lack of communication with families, visitor restrictions, quality of care concerns, and reduced access to social supports

  • Abuse of older people, such as misuse of Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA), financial abuse, increased risk of abuse due to COVID-19, and unwanted admission into residential care

  • Lack of assessment service availability, inappropriate triaging of assessments, and long wait times for assessments

  • Issues in the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), such as lack of service availability in rural and remote areas, workforce shortages, and an increase in CHSP requests

  • Issues with Home Care Packages like extended waiting periods, fees, communication with providers, and workforce shortages

  • Diverse and marginalised groups require help with understanding and accessing the aged care system, had issues accessing culturally appropriate and trauma-informed care, and had problems with family and financial abuse

  • Problems with short term care options like transition care, short term restorative care and respite, such as accessing transition care from hospital, quality of care, and lack of transparency costs.

Chair of the OPAN Board, Mary Anne Hunt, explains that the report is an opportunity to further improve the aged care sector by fixing the shortfalls and bettering older people's lived experiences.

"We know this is what good providers are committed to and will deliver for older people," she says.

"Systemic, sector-wide, cultural change of this magnitude takes time, but it is imperative that it occurs.

"We will continue to advocate for older Australians to ensure their voices are heard and that systemic issues impacting their lives are addressed by government, service providers and other agencies responsible for aged and community care services."

The report was informed by an analysis of qualitative data captured in OPAN's member's quarterly reporting in 2020-21. There are also case studies in the report of older people's experiences, some of which are quite distressing.

To find out more information about OPAN or to view the full report, head to the OPAN website.

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