Over the last 20 something years, we have had no less than 21 formal reports or inquiries onto the challenges we have been facing in Australia of poor care in aged care, to the point, these facilities should not have the word ‘care’ in their names!
Today, this culminates in the final report of the Royal Commission into our Aged Care system the being tabled in Parliament. The news of the day about this, had our current Prime Minister saying something like he expects the final report to highlight the many issues we face. Duh, we already know what most are, and have for at least two decades!
The Final Report is the culmination of 28 months of work, including 23 public hearings involving 641 witnesses. Over 10,500 public submissions were received, including by me. I provided a written submission, and also presented a Witness Statement at one of the Hearings in Sydney.
Sadly, at least in my opinion, the two Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO, who have presented the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to the Governor-General, His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) today, do not agree on many of the solutions. They have failed to reach an agreement on the best way to structure and fund Australia’s aged care system and instead have put forward a range of recommendations that were not unanimously agreed upon. If they could not agree after such a costly investigation, and after such careful deliberations, it is hard to see how the people who can, and must fix it will be able to.
The Final Report, and the recommendations made in it, will be available to read on the Royal Commission website once the Report has been tabled in Parliament. Tabling it is a matter for the Australian Government, and in spite of all of the past reports, and the Interim report handed down and accepted on 31 October 2019, which was simply and very aptly titled, “Neglect”, should not the Prime Minister have any idea what would be in it!
Last week, one of our ABC television programs, Q & A focused their program on the Royak Commission, which I watched earlier today as I had recorded it. I was annoyed they did not use the whole programme to focus on this report, but instead wasted time on another topic, which are being covered in their prgram tis week! I was also annoyed none of ther panellists were people living in residential aged care, or diagnosed with dementia. Yes, they had some in the audience, but not as panellists. Many people found the programme meaningful, which sections of it were, but typica;ly, some of the politicians used it as a platform to play politics, and another panellist partly used the opportunty as a platform to very subtly highlight his own aged care facility!
This is likely a lot to do with what is wrong with aged care; too many people who have power or the capacity to make change, are not focused adequately on the solutions to the very big problems!
‘In 1623 when the seriously ill, John Donne, the English poet wrote ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’. This insight, that we are all interconnected is as true today as it was then, and very true inside an aged care facility as autonomy is taken away the minute you move into your new ‘home’!
More recently, experimental psychologist John Dunbar (2015) proposed the social-brain hypothesis which suggests a ‘quantitative relationship between social-group size and neocortex volume in monkeys and apes.’ In humans this predicts a group size of about 150 people, the average group size in small societies and ironically, also in aged care facilities, and also of modern personal social networks. Of significance is the effect of group size on health and wellbeing including mortality and morbidity, recovery from illness and cognitive functioning. Psychologis say we need this group size to be healthy; and although we have a group size similar in most aged care homes, the isolation is far from healthy, on top of the systemic abuse we now know happenes, as we have had it confirmed through a Royal Commission.
But I digress!
Sadly too much time during the Q & A program twas wasted on rape allegations, although they did not discuss the sexual assault of older Australians. This reinforced the ageist attitudes we face in our society, clearly stating that older people are not important. There was no outrage there is a lot of sexual assault in aged care facilities! No one I have ever asked wants to live in an aged care facility, yet we hear there is a 55% chance women will end up in one.
Ageing, and the need for aged care is going to affect everyone, just like climate change, and just like COVID-19 pandemic, but there seems to be no urgency to fix aged care yet. We will wait and see, but we must keep asking, and