We are still failing our elders

While fewer than 10 per cent of older Australians will ever require support from an aged care service, their care is becoming a prominent issue due to the ageing population and media reports highlighting nursing home breaches – and so it should. We would all agree that supporting frail elders to the highest standards of dignity and respect is a societal responsibility. Quality of care of the frail is the best measure of a humane society.But it requires more than just rhetoric and words. It requires visionary policy that empowers yet protects our seniors, and consumer-directed funding that is responsive and flexible to the needs of each person. Older people are not a homogenous group; their individuality does not cease the day they require care. And our existing system is failing our frail elders. You see, when a residential facility is not reaching aged care standards, politicians are quick to jump in “to protect our frail and elderly citizens” without sharing their responsibility as funders. There is a truth behind “the story” that is never revealed because it’s complicated and politically unpalatable: and yet it is the very reason why many providers struggle to give the care our parents and grandparents need and deserve, let alone the innovative solutions to assist them to age actively, independently and with dignity.Fact 1: The Federal Government is the dominant funder of care for aged people, either within their homes or in a facility, and yet the funding provided doesn’t match the cost of care, let alone keep pace with rising expenditure. This year aged care funding was increased by 1.7 per cent with great fanfare, however the cost of living increased by 2.8 per cent.This disparity has been consistently the case for more than a decade. The real dollars available to care for frail seniors continue to be eroded.Fact 2: In order to receive care, older people must negotiate a complex matrix of assessments and prove they need assistance.It’s a system that can delay appropriate care for months. If that isn’t bad enough, they must then jump through the hoops again every time their ageing body tells them they need more help. If they don’t do this they don’t get funded to receive care.Fact 3: Aged care facilities must meet safety and health standards when caring for ageing people.While providers, residents and their families would not dispute the need for high quality, the checks and balances should be streamlined and focused on empowering residents to make choices, not take their independence away. The present system talks of individual choice, but in practice inhibits standard liberties, such as the choice to eat soft boiled eggs, rockmelon and strawberries because they cannot be sterilised to meet stringent food standards.These are just some of the issues we will be addressing with the commissioner and assistant commissioner leading the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Care of Older Australians when they visit IRT next week.We’ll be highlighting solutions that focus on empowering older people, that support independence rather than dependence and fund a collaborative approach to supporting seniors.We want a system that guides our grey gurus to navigate and celebrate the journey of ageing, to be the boss of their lives, because we believe they deserve it. We hope that the next chapter in the aged care story is one that you’ll enjoy reading. Nieves Murray is the chief executive of IRT.
Nanjing Night Net

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