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Shocking footage once again stirs concern across the aged care community

Australians are continuing to question the quality of care offered within residential aged care facilities following the airing of the final episode in a two-part investigation into aged care by the ABC’s Four Corners.

Aged care peak bodies say elder abuse is a critical issue that must be treated with the utmost seriousness (Source: Shutterstock)
Aged care peak bodies say elder abuse is a critical issue that must be treated with the utmost seriousness (Source: Shutterstock)

The second part of the investigation revealed more hidden camera footage, and personal stories from the families of “abused” and even deceased consumers, which, for the second time in a fortnight has stirred concern across the community.

A number of concerned members of the public, who viewed the investigation across the two weeks, took to social media to share their concerns and thoughts of the stories presented in the report.

While many people, like Bill Charley, shared their concern at what had been shown, some also took the opportunity to acknowledge the good within the industry too.

“These horrors MUST be brought into the light of public awareness,” Mr Charley states.

“Yes, there are good ones, but neglect is endemic among an unacceptable number of facilities.

“It’s the government’s job to monitor & rectify these problems, and they are blatantly neglecting their duty of care.”

Lucinda Franklin also shared her opinion on the reporting saying: “I’m utterly horrified yet not at all surprised by this expose - nowhere near enough is being done to ensure the quality & safety of aged care in this nation… but we should not be wasting time on a royal commission/inquiry - more people will be abused, more people will die unless something is done now.”

Like Ms Franklin, a number of others also made note of the recently announced Royal Commission, with many highlighting their fear that now the two-part investigative report is ‘over’, the issues it raised will be “forgotten”.

“What worries me is that now this Four Corners’ two part episode, on this important issue, has finished that it will now be forgotten,” Anne Wanliss expresses.

“The issue must be investigated further and finally a [permanent] fix implemented.

“This has been going on for decades AND MUST NOT CONTINUE.”

Julie-Anne Flakemore agrees.

“Yes, my thoughts exactly. How can we all go back to work tomorrow and do the same thing over and over knowing this is happening right under our nose,” she says.

The nation’s aged care peak bodies and consumer advocacy groups have also shared their individual responses to the final episode and the issues it aired.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), whose Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney was interviewed in part one of the report, says it is “tragic and unacceptable” that older Australians have been subject to the kinds of abuse outlined by the ABC.

Mr Rooney says elder abuse is a critical issue that can occur in a number of ways - including physically, emotionally, psychologically or financially - and notes that any incident of this abuse in an aged care setting “must be treated with the utmost seriousness”.

“The examples highlighted by Four Corners were deplorable,” Mr Rooney says.

“It is sickening to see vulnerable people in an aged care setting abused.

“And it is saddening to see the effect this has on them and their loved ones.”

Fellow peak body, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), also says there is “no excuse” for poor or neglectful care causing harm or distress to any individual and their family.

“The stories as retold on Four Corners last night are unacceptable,” CEO Pat Sparrow says.

“They fall well short of the standards of care all Australians expect for our elders.”

Minister for Aged Care “confident” that the new Commission will better target sub-standard care (Source: Shutterstock)

While acknowledging the shortfalls highlighted in the report, both ACSA and LASA make note of aged care being a sector that is in “transformation”.

Mr Rooney says the recent commitments from Government signal a “renewed focus” on the needs of older Australians and making the aged care system better.

“A new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, with a new set of safety and quality standards, and improved transparency and complaint reporting will commence on 1 January 2019,” he explains.

“These changes, alongside the introduction of unannounced re-accreditation visits that came into effect on 1st July 2018, will drive quality improvements in the aged care system and help restore confidence for the community and providers alike.”

Ms Sparrow also notes that “much work” is already underway on improving and strengthening the safety and quality system acting on the recommendations of the Carnell-Paterson Review.

“Consumers, the community and providers all need firm but fair regulation that is both transparent and protects the principles of safety and quality of life,” she says.

“Regulation that identifies and holds to account those who abuse and neglect.”

National consumer advocate - Council on the Ageing (COTA) - says Four Corners has highlighted “serious failings” in the handling of complaints about the treatment of residents in nursing homes and a “too frequent and tragic” lack of understanding and empathy towards people living with dementia.

CEO Ian Yates says the announced Royal Commission must decide whether the treatment of allegations of physical assault and, when proven, the penalties for crimes against aged care residents, meet community expectations.

“Last night we saw examples of physical assaults on some of our most vulnerable fellow citizens,” he says.

“While providers did involve police when provided with irrefutable evidence, we are absolutely dismayed that such assaults went previously unnoticed, and in at least one reported case, information about earlier similar incidences were reportedly not acted upon when notified.”

Mr Yates says COTA has, and will continue to, call for greater transparency about complaints and serious care incidents in all nursing homes, and how they are handled, so older Australians and their families can see the history of complaints and serious incidents to guide their decisions about which nursing home to use.

Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, says he is “confident” that the new Complaints Commissioner and the Quality Agency will better target sub-standard care, noting that it will be a “central point” to identify failures, highlight quality concerns and have them quickly rectified.

“Any concerns about quality of care will be managed by the one agency, making it easier for everyone to know who they can contact, and further enhancing the complaints policing and resolution process,” Minister Wyatt says.

“The Complaints Commissioner's growing activity - which will continue through the new Quality and Safety Commission - highlights how our Government is getting on with the job of improving aged care, as the recently announced Royal Commission goes about its important work.”

Anyone with concerns about staffing levels or quality and safety of care within aged care is urged to immediately report these matters, openly or anonymously, to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 550 552.

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