National Plan to Address Elder Abuse

Following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission Report on Elder Abuse handed down in June 2017 a national plan to offset elder abuse is currently being developed by federal and state governments.  Nationally consistent laws to respond to elder abuse are among the key goals that also include:

  • promoting the autonomy and agency of older people;
  • addressing ageism and promoting community understanding of elder abuse;
  • safeguarding at-risk older people and improving responses;
  • building the evidence basis.

I have spoken about elder abuse in past blogs.  Due to my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I work closely with elderly people and their families and have, at times, been aware of this taking place. so I was pleased to see the ALRC report and recommendations delivered last year.  The development of a national plan from these recommendations, that is expected in draft version by the end of this year, will be very welcome.

Attorney-General Christian Porter stated at the recent National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney that the national plan would bring government, business and community stakeholders together to properly address this critical issue. He told the audience that addressing elder abuse was not just a legal issue so attorneys-general would work together with ministers from health, community services and other portfolios to develop the plan; in consultation with the community sector, seniors, business and financial sectors.

Meanwhile Victoria is the first state to develop its own action plan, launched this February. The Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria was developed by the National Ageing Research Institute, supported by Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of Public Advocate and community service providers. It sets out 10 priorities to address elder abuse:

  • Clarify the relationship between family violence and elder abuse.
  • Raise community awareness of elder abuse and promote a positive image of older people to reduce ageism.
  • Increase availability of “older person centred” alternatives to disclosing elder abuse.
  • Standardise tools for recognising abuse and develop and implement a common framework for responding to elder abuse.
  • Increase availability of family (elder) mediation services including for people living in rural areas and CALD communities.
  • Provide education and training on elder abuse for all health professionals in health and aged care services.
  • Improve data and increase evaluation.
  • Clarify whether carer stress is a risk factor for elder abuse.
  • Improve understanding and response to elder abuse in CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Improve housing options for both perpetrators and victims of elder abuse.

Meeting Residents’ Expectations in Aged Care Homes


One of the biggest challenges for providers of Aged Care Facilities is meeting the expectations of residents and their families. From my perspective, as an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I perceive that many families expect their loved ones to receive one on one attention 24/7.  Of course, this is unrealistic as sometimes the other residents will need the attention of the staff. This can’t be helped in accommodation where there are a number of residents with varying levels of care needs to be met.

Clients always ask me about staff ratios, which has become a hot topic in aged care. This is a difficult question to answer since the introduction of Ageing In Place, because most Aged Care Homes now have a mixture of high and low needs and staff numbers are rostered according to care needs and work load at any given time. The most helpful question to ask of an Aged Care Facility is the availability of Registered Nurses on each shift, including overnight, as well as the availability of Doctors on weekends and overnight.
The quality of food is the other big issue in Aged Care Homes and I understand why it’s so important. Apart from the nutritional value, food plays a major role in the daily life of a resident. The anticipation of meals is an important focus and having a good feed leaves them satisfied. Everyone enters a home anticipating the food will be up to standard and palatable; some are disappointed at the quality, while others find the meals delicious.

Earlier in my career when I worked in Aged Care Facilities I was amused that it was often the people who had lived alone surviving on toast or crumpets who complained the most about the food. I would hear the complaints the Chef received and they were often contradictory, some thought the soup too hot, some too cold, some found the gravy too thick, some too thin. I realised how difficult it was to deliver meals for such a large and diverse population, also taking into account medical conditions, and still please everyone. I can assure you there are many residents who do enjoy their food.

In my experience, the people who choose to enter Residential Aged Care and embrace their new lifestyle thrive and are mostly content. And, like anything else, those who look for the bad will always find it and will probably never be happy.

Future Plan Is The Best Way To Care For Parents on The “Tightrope of Aging”

Modern facility lounge

Making the decision to move from the home that you know and in which you have invested so much of yourself is always difficult, no matter at what stage of life you make it.  When you are elderly and no longer capable of caring for yourself it is even more so. There are so many emotional reactions to the idea – reluctance to leave the comfort of your own home, sadness at leaving behind friends or family, fear of an unknown environment, not wanting to be a burden and shame at no longer being able to care for yourself. A book called “Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging” by Melanie P Merriman published late last year explores the difficulties faced by two daughters whose ageing mother is fiercely independent and does not want “to be a burden” to her children. They enter a tug of war where their mother fights for her independence whilst they fight for her safety.

The ultimate conclusion Melanie draws is that the discussion about her mother’s future needs and the best way to meet them should have been held early on and a future plan decided upon with all parties in agreement. She realised too late that trying to adhere to her mother’s desire “not to be a burden” actually caused the problems that did become burdensome to Melanie and her sister.

Being at the coalface of this type of situation myself, as an Aged Care Placement Specialist, I often see how difficult the decision to move a parent to an aged care facility can be. Trying to find a suitable place at short notice when a parent has a serious fall or their health seriously deteriorates is very stressful. I strongly advocate that families discuss their elderly parent’s future needs with them in an honest and open way before a crisis occurs. Setting up a future plan for elderly parents in which they feel empowered and involved in the decision making will reduce a great deal of stress if the time comes when they need the added level of care that an aged care facility can provide.

With the depth of knowledge I have of the different aged care facilities, current legislation and the processes involved, I have been able to assist people to set up their future plans. It is always my pleasure to help people find the best option for their later years, where they will feel at home and enjoy their lifestyle.

Aged Care Workforce Taskforce and Technology Support Improvements in Aged Care

Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care

The government is taking the care of elderly Australians seriously with the development of the Aged Care Workplace Taskforce, announced on November 1st. It is tasked with developing a wide-ranging workforce strategy, focused on supporting safe, quality aged care for senior Australians.

“Everything is on the table but there are only two things that matter, safety and quality,” Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM, said. Despite reservations from the Australian Nurses & Midwives Federation that frontline professionals had been excluded from the Taskforce, the Minister assured that the Taskforce would consult widely, reaching out to senior Australians and their families, consumer organisations, informal carers, aged care workers and volunteers as well as unions, health professionals, universities and the health, education, employment and disability sectors.

“With Australia’s current aged care staffing needs predicted to grow from around 360,000 currently to almost one million by 2050, workforce issues are vital to the quality ongoing care of older Australians.” he added. New thinking and a strong pathway for professional careers in aged care are outcomes the Minister is keen to see as a result of the Taskforce findings and recommendations.

Meantime a state-of-the-art residential aged care facility in Austral, Western Sydney is leading the way in the use of technology to support residents’ safety and wellbeing.

Opening the John Edmondson VC Gardens centre recently, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM said the innovations would help empower residents and staff.

“Technology will never replace the dedication and service of trusted care and health professionals but it can support them to provide even better and more efficient care,” Minister Wyatt said at the opening, encouraging other aged care facilities to consider using similar innovations.

The new centre, operated by RSL LifeCare, includes:

    • Bedroom laser beam, floor sensor and trip light technology to alert staff
    • Sensors that monitor and report on residents’ locations
    • A smart medication management system to maximise medication safety
    • Access to health specialists through video conferencing
    • A virtual reality social program providing animal therapy through a friendly robotic pet called Seals

My observations of the Aged Care facilities, as I visit and recommend suitable accommodation to my clients, is that many of them have great programs, comfortable and even upmarket accommodation, caring staff and a safe environment but there is a wide range of standards between different facilities.  I, therefore, support any improvements to the care of our elderly citizens, whether through government legislation and guidelines or through innovative initiatives by the facilities themselves.


The Picture Of Aged Care In Australia

Jillian Slade with a happy client.

It is fascinating to look at the statistical information gathered about aged care services in Australia. 249,000 (equates to almost a quarter of a million!) people were using these services on 30 June 2016. As I regularly visit aged care facilities on inspections for my clients to find the most suitable facility for their particular needs, many of these statistics are seen as realities to my eyes.

For example, two out three people in aged care are women; ofcourse in my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I see this myself. Apparently the reason they outnumber men in aged care services is because on average women live longer and have higher care needs at these older ages. One of the sadder statistics is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in residential care are on average younger than non-Indigenous people. The reason for this may be because of their more complex health needs and shorter life expectancies. Interestingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people only account for 1% of all people in permanent residential aged care and make up 4% of people in home care.

32% of people who are in aged care services were born overseas. This is in direct correlation with migration statistics, with 36% of people aged 65 years and over in Australia having been born overseas. This stat gives clear evidence as to the need for more culturally appropriate services in aged care for this group.

Statistics on respite care in residential care facilities reflect how important these facilities are for respite in remote regions.  Major cities only recorded 2.6% of the people in residential care facilities being there for respite. There was an outward radiating statistic for this group the more remote the facility was, with inner regional being 3.1%, outer regional being 3.6% and remote and very remote being 4.6%.  One assumes this is because there are not many other respite facilities available in these regions.




Government Stats on Aged Care Provision

Statistics now available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paint an interesting picture about aged care services. Statistics on aged care for 2016 indicate that the number of aged care places is increasing, with 1.4 times as many places over the last ten years from 2006 to 2016. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant these stats simply prove what I have already witnessed, the number of elderly people needing aged care is noticeably increasing.

Occupancy rates tell us how close to full capacity the care system is, so it was interesting to note that residential care had the highest occupancy rate for 2015/16 financial year at 92% . Transition care at 88% was next, followed by home care at 83%. Occupancy rates are calculated by adding together the total number of days that all people spent in care during the year, then dividing that number by the total number of places that were available. The stats around occupancy rates for residential aged care is concerning but information that the highest number of builds in the building and construction industry recently has been for aged care residential facilities does give some comfort.

65% of aged care services were run by not-for-profit organisations in 2016. A trend emerged that most of the privately-owned aged care services were in cities whilst in remote areas services were predominantly government run.

Although aged care services can be delivered by any of the following:

  • government organisations,
  • not-for-profit organisations
  • private companies

the Australian Government contributes towards the costs of care for most aged care places. Around 95% of government spending in aged care comes from the Australian Government, with state and territory governments providing 5%.

So, what are the figures?

The governments spent approximately $17 billion on aged care in 2015/16.

69% of this figure was spent on residential aged care.

Expenditure on residential care was 2.7 times that spent on home care and support.

The break up was – $11.5billion on residential care, $4.3 billion on home care and support.

The government recognises that aged care provision is a growing area with an ageing population. In my role wthin the industry, helping people find suitable aged care accommodation, I hope that the required quality and quantity of residential aged care will be provided well into the future.

Driverless Car Will Make Life Easier For The Elderly

Pod Zero Driverless Car

Technology until now has been seen as within the realm of youth, with older Australians being wary of using the latest techno gadgets.  However, the trend is moving toward technology becoming a life changer for elderly people, providing them greater freedoms and connectivity.  We have already discussed some of these improvements, such as video phones and care programs on ipads.  But hold on tight because the lastest application is driverless cars!

A car driven entirely by artificial intelligence is no longer a dream, it’s been developed. Experts say the autonomous car will be safer, resulting in fewer traffic injuries and deaths. The social benefits are great as these driverless cars will give freedom and mobility to those who can’t drive, such as the elderly , those with mobility problems and disabled people.

Aged care and lifestyle provider the IRT Group has formed a partnership to develop driverless car technology in a residential aged care setting.  The idea being that driverless cars will improve residents’ independence and quality of life.  The car model named “Pod Zero” will be programmed to safely navigate the private roads within the IRT communities and residents can hail the cars to travel independently to appointments and activities within their community.

A UK based company, RDM Autonomous, has brought the technology to Australia and is partnering the IRT Group to bring driverless cars to aged care communities for the first time anywhere in the world.  They will present details of the project at the 2017 Information Technology in Aged Care Conference on the Gold Coast 21st to 22nd  November.

I welcome any new technology that can help to make elderly people’s lives safer and easier.  As an Aged Care Placement Consultant, I have the opportunity to see the areas where people with disabling conditions and frailty need more help as I assist my elderly clients and their families to find suitable aged care accommodation. Independent transport is definitely one of those areas. Imagine the freedom people in aged care would experience if they could just hop in a car to visit friends and relatives or attend a medical appointment and be delivered automatically to their destination.