Our attitudes to old age
Perhaps the most worrying finding of the Royal Commission is the lack of respect and value we give to our older citizens.
“the language of public discourse is not respectful towards older people. Rather, it is about burden, encumbrance, obligation and whether taxpayers can afford to pay for the dependence of older people. As a nation, Australia has drifted into an ageist mindset that undervalues older people and limits their possibilities. Sadly, this failure to properly value and engage with older people as equal partners in our future has extended to our apparent indifference towards aged care services. Left out of sight and out of mind, these important services are floundering. They are fragmented, unsupported and underfunded. With some admirable exceptions, they are poorly managed. All too often, they are unsafe and seemingly uncaring. This must change.”
Those of us working in community services will appreciate that this lack of value extends to the workforce too. If we don’t value older people, why would we value those that work with and care for them?
“We have heard about an aged care workforce under pressure. Intense, task-driven regimes govern the lives of both those receiving care and those delivering it. While there are exceptions, most nurses, carer workers and allied health practitioners delivering care are doing their best in extremely trying circumstances where there are constraints on their time and on the resources available to them.
The aged care sector suffers from severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. Workloads are heavy. Pay and conditions are poor, signalling that working in aged care is not a valued occupation. Innovation is stymied. Education and training are patchy and there is no defined career path for staff. Leadership is lacking. Major change is necessary to deliver the certainty and working environment that staff need to deliver great quality care.”
The Royal Commission acknowledges that there are service providers who are providing quality care and putting their clients first; they recognise the efforts of committed staff and praise the tenacity of devoted family carers. But, they are working within a failed system.
Within days of the publication of the Aged Care Royal Commission Interim Report, the Disability Royal Commission held its first hearing, which included stories of children with disabilities being bullied and excluded, by their teachers. Australia prides itself on cultural values of mateship and a fair go. The interim report from the Aged Care Royal Commission makes it pretty clear that we’ve let our old mates down. Early signs from the Disability Royal Commission indicate that we haven’t been giving people with disability a fair go either. Unless we fix the systems that are supposed to be caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, that expression that ‘getting old is better than the alternative’ may no longer hold true.
NDS has produced a helpful summary of the lessons from the Aged Care Royal Commission for disability service providers. I won’t repeat it here, as we’ll be hosting an ExecNet event in Adelaide next month where we’ll hear an update from Henry Newton, Senior Policy Officer at NDS, about the Disability Royal Commission, and Dr David Panter, CEO of ECH Inc will share his learnings of the Aged Care Royal Commission
If you’d like to join us at the ExecNet, you can book your spot here.
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