It has been almost two weeks since Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that there would be a royal commission into the aged care sector in Australia, but new research has revealed that an overwhelming majority of older Aussies have no idea how to complain about poor practices or inadequate care.
A study carried out by National Seniors Australia found that a whopping 65 per cent of seniors feel there are no options to complain, while 60 per cent have never heard of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
The alarming findings also revealed that a huge 70 per cent of Baby Boomers have never looked at the My Aged Care website, which is a government service designed to provide information to those seeking aged care or family members, while 85 per cent had never phoned the My Aged Care helpline for assistance.
“The absolute goal is to have zero tolerance for the types of endemic problems that have been revealed recently, many of which have surfaced since the introduction of unannounced accreditation assessments,” National Seniors’ Interim CEO Professor John McCallum said.
“Consumers can help drive change by becoming better informed, and providers and government need to assist in developing consumer knowledge and literacy, so information is more readily accessible.
“After experiencing the aged care sector, one of the main issues for consumers and their families is the feeling that complaining about services will lead to retribution. Many who have worked in the sector vow to never use its services if they can avoid it, because they are so scarred by their experiences.”
The research also uncovered that 80 per cent of older Australians did not fully grasp how consumer contributions to aged care are assessed, leading McCallum to call on the government to communicate more clearly with the public as “many older Australians lacked the knowledge, skill and motivation” to access aged care services.
“As well as a quality and complaints system that works, we need the government and providers to communicate the processes available better,” he added.
“One of the inadvertent consequences of the Four Corners program and the Royal Commission is the negative image of aged care homes is reinforced. Sadly, some bad players in the industry tar the good ones with the same brush!
“But the reality is some people are going to need residential care when they reach old age, so we must ensure they meet the required standard, that people can learn how to access the information they need quickly and easily, and they can complain without fear of retribution or being ignored.”
Morrison announced the royal commission earlier this month, citing inexcusable failures of care at facilities across the country.
The prime minister ordered the inquiry after receiving information from a government audit that revealed the Department of Health has closed almost one aged care service per month since the notorious Oakden facility in Adelaide was shut one year ago.
The royal commission will look at the aged care sector as a whole and will also include young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.
Morrison said Australia has some of the best aged care standards in the world, but that “incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused.”