Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality & Safety

Written by: Melanie Wong
Published by: Jay Lee

Nursing homes first appeared in the mid 20th Century and have only become more common in the 21st Century; as family roles have shifted over time and a larger percentage of the population is now contributing to the workforce, the ability of some families to look after their elderly has declined. While aged care is met with varying reactions from older generations, one of the most serious and prominent concerns of the sceptical is elder abuse.

Elder abuse is a sensitive issue that has lingered on the periphery of the aged care sector for many years. However, the recent announcement of a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety by Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicates a new focus on tackling the problem. This has allowed for a new conversation to emerge that defends vulnerable residents who have been subject to this unacceptable behaviour and aims to reduce the number of incidents through widespread awareness.

But why is so little known about the care and abuse of the elderly, of these individuals who have contributed so much to society but are given so little in return? A two-part Four Corners series that was aired in September talks about the difficulties of even discovering elder abuse, as older residents may be living with conditions such as dementia that can limit their ability to communicate their experiences. For the families who do discover elder abuse, often through cameras installed in the rooms of residents, the process to seek justice can be emotionally draining and sometimes disappointing, engaging with the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) system that protects aged care providers rather than residents. Whether it be emotional, physical or financial abuse, the issue of elder abuse is more prevalent than ever in the Australian aged care sector.

The question then arises of what is the root of the problem? What causes individuals in a system grounded in the care of others and compassion for those who can no longer be independent to reject its fundamental principles?

There are many answers to this question and each case of elder abuse reflects different causes. However, one of the primary reasons for elder abuse is lack of training and understaffing. While the existence of elder abuse at all is a source of concern, the launch of the Royal Commission is perhaps a sign that there needs to be systemic change.

As an agency that is heavily involved with the care of the elderly, it is an integral part of Healthcare HQ’s ethos to employ individuals who practise empathy, respect and compassion towards residents. The distressing perpetration of elder abuse is a primary reason for Healthcare HQ’s stringent selection of staff, leading to a candidate pool of nurses who are genuine, nurturing and passionate about their roles as carers. Healthcare HQ also stresses the importance of continuous support and training for our staff on expectations of workplace performance and behaviour to ensure that each nurse and carer are well-equipped to care for elderly residents.

Elder abuse can be a difficult topic to discuss and an even more difficult topic to address. However, small actions in local agencies can create a ripple effect that encourages the development of a trusted aged care system and the recent Royal Commission is just another step forward on the journey to eradicate elder abuse.

In a recent announcement, Healthcare HQ advanced to the final stage of the Local Business Awards. We would like to thank you for your continual support and belief in the integrity of our staff.