Barry Cohen’s thoughts on Aged and Dementia ‘Care’

Image source: Wikipedia

Image source: Wikipedia

The perfect segue from my tips for dementia care earlier this week is this list of things Barry Cohen has listed in an article Stuck inside living hell with no way out, written by a former Labor minister, reveals his battle with dementia.

It is funny how when it becomes personal, it is so much easier to see what is wrong…

The article published in The Weekend Australian on 18 October 2014 can be read in full here Stuck inside living hell with no way out by Barry Cohen, and begins with this:

“This article does not pretend to have the answers to dementia but is intended to highlight the fact that Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are among the most common forms of disease now besetting society. And it is my personal account, as someone recently diagnosed with this disease.”

Barry goes on to list a number of issues and challenges he has as a resident now living in an aged care facility.

“Below are the random thoughts of a new arrival at an aged-care facility. They are not necessarily the views of the other 27 residents, but are the views of someone who has spent a lifetime at odds with public servants who have never had to
suffer the problems listed below.

• Why doesn’t each patient have their own private phone, just as they do in private and public hospitals? Now, if you are lucky, it
takes hours to get a call using the ward phone.
• A genius decided to place the emergency/nurse call buttons in a position only a contortionist could reach, so that if you want to get assistance you have to hop out of bed — easy if you don’t have a bad back, neck or hip, like I do — and risk breaking a leg or an arm. And most other patients are in their 80s. You need a panel the average aged person can reach.
• Stop serving food no one eats: cold toast, cold tea and thick, glutinous porridge. Offer them choices as they do in public or private hospitals. An edible diet is essential to maintain one’s health and sanity.
• The beds are too narrow and some can cause you to fall out of them. My doctor insists it is dangerous if I hit my head again.
Some beds have to be made up to doctor’s instructions, without consideration of patient comfort, to prevent accidents.
• Give the “singers” (screamers) a soundproof room, or at least shut the doors to their rooms.
• Have special brightly coloured controls that don’t blend with all the other black controls.
• Provide reading lamps so you can read at night.
• Staff should be numbered and named. It’s hard for Australians, aged and perhaps hard of hearing, to differentiate between a dozen different accents — South Sea Is-landers, Indians, Arabs, Asians, Europeans. I risk being called a racist, but there’s no other way to make the point. By all means employ foreigners, but make sure they speak with an accent that can be understood. I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me. Our bureaucrats cannot understand that there is a
difference, and it will save time, money and hurt feelings.
• You’re charged hotels rates for the above, so give hotel service. This is not an 18th-century workhouse. The disparity and inequities between monetary rates charged for residents is nothing short of scandalous. I am charged $600 a week and have
provided a $250,000 bond, while in neighbouring rooms residents who may have alcoholic dementia or have gambled their lives
away receive the same care as I do, courtesy of Centrelink. Effectively I, and those like me, are subsidising the care of other residents and the profits for the aged-care facility.

The message is, forget about providing for your retirement and aged home care — the government will pay. In fairness I should point out that the aged-care units are seriously understaffed. How they are expected to wash and clean patients every day, then make the beds, clean the floors and feed us all I don’t know. Those are their basic chores.

The rest of the time they must look after the needs of those they are supposed to care for. “Want to go to the toilet? No worries!” “Want a drink? I’ll be back in a minute.” For one of those minutes I waited 1½ hours. In the very near future the number of patients will double, and then treble — one carer looking after seven patients with a variety of needs. Do me a favour!

4 thoughts on “Barry Cohen’s thoughts on Aged and Dementia ‘Care’

    • I’m sure they would have explored every single option before that one… and as his son helped him with the article, perhaps Barry is more advanced than it appears… very personal decisions for every single family


  1. Oh wow this is really terrifying for someone (like me) who works in aged care……everyone (like me) should be actively reflecting on what it is we do and how we do it! Again thank you Kate, always thought provoking.


    • Thanks Megan… It has been terrifying me for years, and I have been banging on about the quality of care (or lack thereof in many cases) for some years as well. Hopefully having someone with the profile of Barry Cohen speaking out, now others will start to listen. I know you are listening, but many are quite happy with the status quo, and prefer not to see it from a consumers point of view… helps them avoid the need for change.


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