Older Australians continue to fear being abused and neglected in aged care, according to research 12 months on from the damning findings of the royal commission.
The two-year inquiry into aged care quality and safety, which tabled its final report in March 2021, found almost a third of residents had suffered substandard treatment, and up to 18 per cent were physically or sexually assaulted.
The revelations sparked widespread calls for rights-based legislation and stronger transparency and regulation.
In response to 148 recommendations in total, the Federal Government set aside nearly $18 billion over five years to deliver “once in a generation change” and meet “fundamental systemic flaws”.
However, advocacy group National Seniors Australia says its latest survey of more than 5000 older Australians indicates the devastating effect of the commission’s findings continues to be felt.
“The royal commission and the media coverage have had a major impact on older Australians’ attitudes toward residential aged care,” National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum, pictured above, said.
“Many of those people who responded are worried they will suffer the same neglect and abuse they have heard and read about in evidence.”
Just under half the respondents said the reporting of neglect and abuse had affected their aged care planning or decisions.
Many vowed to be more cautious about entering care and others said that they would take pragmatic steps to ensure they found a good quality facility when the time came.
However 325 of those surveyed said they intended never setting foot inside a care residence and at least 70 commented that they would prefer to die rather than be admitted to a facility.
Although the issues involved were complex, McCallum said older Australians entering residential aged care had a firm idea of what they wanted from the experience: a place more like a home than an institution.
“More smaller, community-minded facilities with home-like features, including personally cooked meals and simple mechanisms to make it easier to navigate information when choosing a facility were a priority,” he said.
“The term ‘one-stop-shop’ was a common theme among respondents who have found the current system confusing and opaque.”
As part of this, many believed designated case officers or “retirement specialists” should be on hand to help them through each step of the process.
McCallum said while respondents were sceptical about facilities that were for profit, it was apparent many of these did a great job.
At the same time, some not-for-profit homes had let residents down.
Rising fees and costs was another major respondent complaint.