When the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety released its interim report in October last year, it surprised very few industry insiders when it concluded our aged care was “a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation”.
The report not only highlighted the complexity and inefficiency of our aged care system, but more pertinently, the disregard for the experience of older people at every stage of the process – waiting up to three years in the queue, being subjected to multiple health assessments and finding it near impossible to get clear, transparent information about services and funding available.
Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of media spotlight that’s helping us find a way forward. For comparison’s sake, analysis by media monitoring agencies revealed the aged care royal commission received less than a third of the coverage of bank’s bad behaviour following their similarly damning royal commission.
It begs the question – is aged care not ‘sexy’ enough for public consumption? Are we grossly underestimating the public interest in aged care? Or are we just afraid to look in the mirror?
If the time hasn’t yet arrived, sooner or later someone you care about will need assistance with day-to-day living – if you care to look even deeper into the crystal ball – understand that someday it will probably be you. As such, recognition of aged care services is not just vital for the future of the aged care sector – it’s paramount to the future of the country, and will eventually affect each and every one of us, if it doesn’t already.
But there are some solutions out there.
Australians have an aversion to talking about ageing, and this may mean many are accessing the system far too late. A new Macquarie University study revealed that getting access to low-level My Aged Care support services earlier resulted in better longevity and quality of life for ageing Australians, including the ability to stay at home longer. We all need to start this conversation now.
With an ageing population and a looming gap between supply of informal carers and numbers of those needing care, the time is now to make bold move.
But in spite of the challenges we face, and the many knocks the industry has taken and we’ve fought through, it’s not all doom and gloom. The truth is, some in the aged care sector are already moving in the right direction. Those are the providers that are stepping up with reasonable, transparent pricing, putting the client’s needs first, and earning the trust of older people by delivering a quality service.
It’s hard even in the not-for-profit space for the vital work supporting older Australians to be recognised.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be nominated for a prestigious social award – Impact 25 – for my years of service and leadership in the industry, and my contributions to the public discourse. Impact 25 has previously been awarded to personalities like Malcolm Turnbull, Rosie Batty and Julia Gillard, for their contributions to fields like climate change, domestic abuse, and the rights of asylum seekers, among others.
However, while 75 Australians have been nominated for the Impact 25 in past years, no one in the aged care sector has ever been named in the list!
Everyone working in the aged care sector believes in the need to ensure dignity for older Australians as they enter the most vulnerable and challenging phase of their lives. We believe it’s important to put both the struggle of older Australians, and our fragmented aged care system, on the map. But we can’t do it alone. Let’s talk about aged care.