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A damming report on aged care the government cannot ignore

The COVID-19 deaths in our aged care institutions has revealed the dereliction of duty by the federal government, as it is the federal government who is ultimately responsible for setting the standards for their care. This failure, however, is not a recent phenomenon. The Interim Report into Aged Care Quality and Safety released late last year was also damning for the federal government, which I reported within days of its release. It is pertinent to re-publish this article.

* * * * *

It is not as though we haven’t been forewarned about the urgent need to attend to the crisis in aged care.

Numerous reports, over many years, have shown that the sector is in dire need of attention.

That the government is so reluctant to address any of the problems brings shame on them and our nation.

For a country that has enjoyed so much success in so many areas, it is sometimes more appropriate to put this down to luck rather than industrious thinking by government.

Despite words of assertive action by the government it is hard to see that, given its reluctance to spend a dollar that might affect its need for a public relations surplus, that they will have the money to spend on aged care. And I mean real money

The interim report by the Royal Commission into Australia’s Aged Care sector found that “cruel and harmful” attitudes prevailed.

That it has been so for many years is, without doubt, a smear on the nation.

The report also said that the sector was “fragmented, unsupported, underfunded,” and very much unsafe and uncaring.

That we could be so uncaring of the needs of our most vulnerable citizens who are at the end of their lives is tantamount to a crime against humanity.

The responsibility for this shame, this “shocking tale of neglect” as the two commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs have described is the result of many years of neglect.

The report described the industry as having a “culture of ageism.”

What a way to describe the treatment of our aged seniors as the sunset of life sets upon them; a time that should be as loving as their beginning.

The Interim Report released on Thursday, listed a litany of problems that the commission described as needing urgent attention. “Unkind and uncaring,” “a shocking tale of neglect” were among the words of condemnation of the government’s inaction.

“The neglect that we have found in this Royal Commission, to date, is far from the best that can be done. Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.”

The report also said that Australia’s aged care sector might not be financially sustainable.

How embarrassing it must be for the minister, let alone the government, to hear these words of judgement after nearly 7 years of conservative neglect.

To say that they must feel dreadful for the appalling way they have allowed the treatment of our aged to go on unchecked would be futile.

They have done it deliberately, for several reasons, all of which relate to economics.

The first of course, and most current, is that to spend the money needed to correct what needs to be done would mean the prevention of a surplus and the second also includes the conservative philosophical principle that such things should be paid for by the individual or his/her family.

Do you think we would ever have a National Health Scheme or an NDIS without Labor? Of course not. These things are deeply ingrained in Labor’s blood.

It was only the budget before last that the Coalition removed the $1000 funeral benefit paid to pensioners to help with the cost of burying their loved ones. How pitiful. On this, the report said that:

“By any measure, this is a cruel and discriminatory system, which places great strain on older Australians and their relatives.”

“It is shocking that the express wishes of older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, with the supports they need, is downplayed with an expectation that they will manage. It is unsafe practice. It is neglect.”

The report rightfully confronts what it describes as our country’s “ageist” mindset, a culture that has led to an irrelevant view of how we see ageing and end of life ethics.

Too often we view our ageing relatives as a burden, an obligation, even an encumbrance without a thought for their life’s journey and our involvement in it. The report surmises that:

“As a nation, Australia has drifted into an ageist mindset that undervalues older people and limits their possibilities.”

There is a moral obligation on Australians to care for the aged that we have never taken seriously. We have allowed self-interest, even the selfishness of inheritance to invade our thinking instead of the clear-mindedness of love.

Why we find such compelling reasons to treat each other badly is beyond me.

Even when old and frail the difference between being alive and truly living can still, with proper care, be experienced.

A commitment to social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds.

Although Labor are not lily-white in this area, having shown little interest when in power, it can mount a defence with its many reforms in other areas.

The Coalition’s neglect, however, cannot be excused. They need to invest heavily in those areas the Commission has identified.

This in part requires for fundamental reform of the system with more home care packages, action to respond to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraints in the sector and removing young people with disabilities from aged care. The report concludes that:

“By any measure, this is a cruel and discriminatory system, which places great strain on older Australians and their relatives.”

After nearly 7 years in power, this is yet another example of just how inept this government has been. They deserve the strongest condemnation by the public and those involved in the sector.

Note. As Treasurer Scott Morrison in 2016 ripped $1.6 B.J. from the aged care sector.

My thought for the day

We can sometimes become so engrossed in our own problems that we can easily overlook the enormity of the suffering of others.

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13 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    ”That the government is so reluctant to address any of the problems brings shame on them and our nation…… The interim report by the Royal Commission ….. found that “cruel and harmful” attitudes prevailed….. The responsibility for this shame, this “shocking tale of neglect” ….. is the result of many years of neglect……That it has been so for many years is, without doubt, a smear on the nation. The report also said that the sector was “fragmented, unsupported, underfunded,” and very much unsafe and uncaring….. They have done it deliberately, for several reasons ….. The first of course, and most current, is that to spend the money needed to correct what needs to be done would mean the prevention of a surplus and the second also includes the conservative philosophical principle that such things should be paid for by the individual or his/her family….. After nearly 7 years in power, this is yet another example of just how inept this government has been. They deserve the strongest condemnation by the public and those involved in the sector”.

    Oh silly me!! Aged Care?? I thought you were commenting on present and too long standing government funding to private schools. So, when will we see the application of this neo-liberal policy of the full cost of private education being paid for by by the individual or his/her family.

    Apologies JL, your article struck a chord. I wonder if others will see the same analysis for their area of expertise.

  2. terence mills

    As always seems to be the case with a failing system you need to look no further than the Howard government.

    Under the Coalition’s Aged Care Act 1997, there was an attempt to distance the federal government from their constitutional responsibilities for aged care.

    They saw it as entirely appropriate – and still do – to turn much of the aged care system over to private for profit organisations as they could while continuing public funding. So, inevitably, we saw an immediate increase in private investment, private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation schemes, property and real estate investment trusts enter the residential aged care market.

    The dean and head of the University of South Australia’s law school Wendy Lacey has slammed the Aged Care Act, arguing that there is “a complete absence of any positive and mandatory legal obligation on the part of facilities to take proactive measures to promote mental health and wellbeing of their residents”.

    Personally I believe that aged care together with our healthcare and education systems are areas that should be publicly funded and overseen through the community and our elected governments. By any means have your private schools, hospitals and aged care arrangements but don’t allow these to encroach our public facilities and don’t expect to be funded by the public.

  3. Matters Not

    Re:

    an attempt to distance the federal government from their constitutional responsibilities for aged care.

    Not sure that the Commonwealth had constitutional responsibility for aged care? Section 51 seems to suggest it remained a residual power probably under the public health and social welfare issues that weren’t delegated to the Feds. Nevertheless Section 96 of the constitution allows the Commonwealth parliament to make laws which provide financial assistance to the States so it probably comes under that heading for all practical purposes.

    The Australian Constitution seems to need a fundamental re-write. It’s well past its use-by-date

  4. Vikingduk

    But, the smirking jerk’s hillsong mate, leigh coleman, complete with allegations of fraud against him, receives $42 million government grant. We still have refugees incarcerated indefinitely, some of us still supporting this bunch of corrupt, incompetent, lying scum suckers, this criminal enterprise masquerading as a government. Shameful and disgusting that these inequities are acceptable. What have we become? My feelings gravitate between rage and despair, rage and contempt and, at times, an overwhelming sadness as the finer qualities of humanity are trashed, as the environment is trashed, as our beautiful planet is trashed.

    All to appease the great god money. It really would make a brown dog weep to know that once a certain age is reached we are inconsequential, a hindrance, collateral damage, reduced to nothing. A rotten, sickening state of affairs to know, unless one has the necessary financial means, we will be confined in substandard accommodation waiting for the mercy of death. We must protect that bullshit construct, the economy, at the expense of dignity and compassion, fed slop and cared for by overworked and underpaid staff.

    Really, is this what it means to be Australian? To be a human? Reduced to a fuck you jack, I’m alright, braindead bunch of selfish, uncaring arseholes. Whatever, eh, the smirk lives on, though his arsehole is very jealous of his mouth given the amount of shit emanating from this liar from the shire’s smirking orifice.

  5. MrFlibble4747

    SCOBLIND: The inability to pick the obvious and best solution. Prevalent in Lib/Nat decision making.

    This blindness has been studied and has been described in a new Lancet article.

    The article identifies a condition they have name “ScoBlindness”, this condition is similar in effect to “Snow Blindness” but has far more impact on society.

    The main subject of study was our government with particular attention to our glorious and never-wrong PM.

    Sufferers have been found to be those WITHOUT the condition, those with the condition do very nicely, thank you very much, no suffering is apparent.

    ScoBlind people are not only unable to be swayed by the “Pub Test” they cannot SEE what Blind Freddy can see (even actual blind people are able to participate in both Pub and Freddy tests with good results).

    Where there is “NO Choice” correct decisions can be made (citing Cormann “What else could we do”), but where there is choice the ScoBlind unwaveringly pick the wrong solution! (The right solution benchmark was established by applying the fore-mentioned Pub and Blind Freddy tests to the available options.)

    There is no known cure or treatment, all research has been redirected to COVID-19 efforts.

  6. Geoff Andrews

    Mr Lord,
    You assert:
    “A damming report on aged care the government cannot ignore”

    They’re doing a bloody good job so far.

  7. pamela curr

    The more I read about aged care the more I feel despair. My own experience of kidnapping an Aunt from an aged care home where she was miserable compounds that despair. My sister and I knew that consultation would fail her.
    She wanted out as her her closest relatives we had to listen. Only when she was in the car heading 800 klms north did she tell us why she, who never wept, cried on the phone. She was threatened with sexual abuse night after night by a male carer who was alone on the shift overnight.
    We reported this in writing by phone and email- nothing. No response beyond a tirade of abuse from the Director of the home.
    Our comfort was that our aunt settled into a new place where she felt safe and was cared for.
    But sad that our complaints met with a brick wall.

  8. andy56

    Here’s a few billion dollars ( over 10yrs) now go away. Whats the bet?

  9. Karen Kyle

    The problems in Aged Care have existed for a long time. I remember a television interview years ago where an Inspector of those facilities said that the residents had cried when he spoke to them, some had got out of bed and tried to follow him out. They wanted to go with him.

    We just don’t value our elderly, despite the fact that we owe them everything. Maybe there will be change this time.

    And they are not all bad. State Government Institutions are usually fine and the odd private facility is sometimes good. But we need to fix the system.

  10. Josephus

    My experience having a relative in care is of underducated GPs who resent carer objections to unmonitored chemical restraints, and who expect the carer to acquiesce not doubt. The public hospitals I know have experts who use caution and needs basis use of psychotropics,. Which is all I ask. Instead I am likened to an antivaxer. Nursing homes seem pretty clueless and understaffed , make promises they then break.

  11. ajogrady

    The rabid and rancid rights privatisation of the aged care sector is proving to be what many who opposed it would be. That is it is a vehicle for the merchants of death and the mercenary hyenas of capatalism to operate unhindered whilst allowing unforgivable suffering and misery to be performed in the guise of care for far to many elderly Australians that goes unpunished in this Neo Con world of profit before people.

  12. John lord

    Thanks for all your comments. It is a very vexed problem. One that is in need of everyone’s attention.

  13. John Boyd

    Geoff Andrews….You beat me to it…I was going to say ‘just watch them…’

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