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Royal Commission must review penalties for abuse in aged care

25 September, 2018

The Aged Care Royal Commission must investigate an appropriate range of penalties for neglect, excessive restraint and abuse in residential aged care along with the need for more effective monitoring of staff.

Ian Yates, Chief Executive of Australia’s leading aged consumer advocate, COTA Australia, said Four Corners had highlighted serious failings in the handling of complaints about the treatment of residents in nursing homes and a too frequent and tragic lack of understanding and empathy towards people living with dementia.

Yates said the Royal Commission must decide whether the treatment of allegations of physical assault and, when proven, the penalties for crimes against aged care residents, meet community expectations.

“Last night we saw examples of physical assaults on some of our most vulnerable fellow citizens. While providers did involve police when provided with irrefutable evidence, we are absolutely dismayed that such assaults went previously unnoticed, and in at least one reported case, information about earlier similar incidences were reportedly not acted upon when notified.

“It is also deeply disturbing to hear a report that a magistrate compared the physical restraint of older people to trying to get a child into a car seat when they are having a tantrum.

“That is a worrying symptom of ageism in our legal system and of the lack of understanding, respect and dignity that should be afforded older Australians living with dementia, who should never be illegally restrained, let alone abused.”

Yates said the use of hidden cameras, to which families and staff feel they have to resort to protect residents, involves complex privacy and other legal issues that the Royal Commission must help untangle so we can protect residents and at their same time respect their right to privacy in their own bedrooms.

He said COTA has long called for greater transparency about complaints and serious care incidents in all nursing homes, and how they are handled, so older Australians and their families can see the history of complaints and serious incidents to guide their decisions about which nursing home to use.

“Four Corners alleged chronic failings in the accreditation process and the handling of complaints. This was dealt with in extensive detail in the recommendations of the 2017 Carnell/Paterson Report, most which the government has accepted.

“We will also have a much stronger regulator with the implementation of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which brings together the Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commission into one body.

“However we need to go even further. COTA has already called on the Government to introduce the traffic light system of public reporting operating in the UK, which would replace our pass/fail system of standards being either ‘met’ or ‘not met’.

“Instead we should instantly publish Red for complete and serious fail, Amber for minor fail and Green for pass or previous fail now rectified, plus a Star for exceptional performance. Consumers deserve to see not simply the current status of these outcomes but also see the history of each outcome.

“Last night’s Four Corners also again highlighted the need to get rid of the three-month window of notice given to providers for reaccreditation visits and introduce totally unannounced checks on providers as soon as possible – for all providers on a random basis, with additional targeted visits to providers that have identified risk factors.”

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Linda Austen | Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 12:34 AM
I think we are looking at blaming the aged care providers too much and not the abusers. On the rare occasion, a carer may assault a resident, the facility and management may never had any idea that the carer was indeed rough or abusive especially where dementia is involved. I have worked in the industry for over 30 years and I think a knee jerk reaction would further stress an already stressed workforce of mainly caring loving people. My job often involves counselling staff who have been abused physically or verbally by a confused resident. I have only seen one case in 30 years of abuse where the nurse had mental health issues and slapped a resident. She voluntarily gave up her registration, when reported. I think something has to be done, but not more layers of red tape and punishment for the providers doing the right thing.
Jenetta Haim | Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 4:24 AM
I know first hand unfortunately of lack of care in one of the most outstanding supposedly aged care facilities in Sydney. An elderly lady inappropriately cared for who fell over and since then is in hospital almost at deaths door. Broke her hip and it got worse from there. She has left the facility but it doesn't help her any. We reported it to the new aged care commissioner but all they can do is a wrap over the knuckles for the staff who have a million excuses. Didn't happen just once. An ongoing thing. Again reporting doesn't help her. If you run a facility and there is abuse or negligence it should be punishable by jail and/or very heavy fines. These people could be your mum or grandma..
Pati Stidworthy | Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 10:16 PM
lots of time and money is spent on so called Accreditation, and on paper looks great.but the actual care or lack of in some places does not reflect that piece of paper which says accredited. lack of trained staff, fear of reprisal for for reporting and lack of team management all result in poor care for the resident. i.e. staff documentation of care NOT given, yet documented it has been so, subtle bullying, abuse of rights of dementia patients to actual verbal fears expressed by residents of certain staff, and then if observed a "slap"on the hand for that person as they need to retain staff.My observation from the ïnside" has been the "good"carers end up leaving and where does that leave the residents. Its not only the residents that are bullied but the carers by some of there peers as they can't cope. The whole staffing needs careful choosiing, need the appropriate training AND personality to be an aged career and sadly anyone can present a resume and as long as they have a clean record and APPEAR to care can be employed. On application if they are not trained caerfull consideration to the pre application questions etc Need to be considered and patients stories and behaviour are a good indication of what THEY feel about the care given. So much needs to be done and a piece of paper say accredited is NOT an indication that the facility will take care of the elderly