The first hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has revealed a myriad of problems suffered by both residents and staff in the sector. Many older Australians are afraid of going into residential aged care due to the lack of care. The Commission has revealed that there were 3,733 reportable assaults in nursing homes in 2017-18, not including residents assaulting each other.
The family of Bob Spriggs, a former resident of the Oakden nursing home in Adelaide (which has now closed down) has spoken out about the lack of transparency at the nursing home. Spriggs died due to suffering from overmedication, severe bruising, dehydration and pneumonia. The family is calling for a national database of abusive workers.
The lack of qualifications, adequate funding and under-staffing into the aged care sector is a systemic issue that must be targeted. With Australia’s ageing population, it is expected that the aged care workforce will need to triple by 2050 to cater for the growing demand. According to Deborah Parker, ageing policy chair of the Australian College of Nursing, the minimum requirement to work in a nursing home is a six-month TAFE course. With all the problems surrounding the sector, this does not seem to be enough. There is a need for more funding into wages and training
Under-staffing is another issue. Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes has said that it is not uncommon for one worker to be looking after 25 residents simultaneously, many of which have different needs, from going to the bathroom to needing to be fed food. Dementia is on the rise with 436,000 Australians suffering from the incurable and untreatable disease today. 80% of dementia patients were being given a psychotropic drug that should only be used as a last resort because the drugs put senior patients at a greater risk of stroke, pneumonia, disability and even death. Dr Harry Nespolon of the Royal Australian College of Practitioners highlighted that around 90% of dementia patients have a behavioural issue, which can put staff and other residents at risk. Over-medication seems to be the easy way of for staff caring for dementia patients.
The next hearing will be on Mach 18 in Adelaide with a focus on home care.
Submissions from the public are being accepted until June 2019 at the Royal Commission’s website.
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