Researcher calls for changes to aged care facilities

Many of us dread the prospect of one day living in an aged care facility. And there are some things
Aged Care

Many of us dread the prospect of one day living in an aged care facility.

And there are some things that make us dread it even more, particularly if you’re married.

No doubt you’ve read before about couples being separated when they move into an aged care facility, and while it doesn’t happen to every couple, it still happens.

But Talking Aged Care is reporting that a researcher from the University of New England is pushing for changes to allow couples to share a room in aged care facilities.

Alison Rahn from the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences has conducted a study with baby boomers and aged care workers.

She found that most Baby Boomers want to be able to share a room or a bed with their partner.

Rahn said research shows not allowing couples to share a bed or a room can impact their health and wellbeing, leading them to become withdrawn.

“Research shows for most people, sleeping with a partner is a social activity and when their partner is not there they can’t sleep properly,” she said,

“Sleep is essential for good health. For many people who have been in a long term relationship are so comforted by the presence of their partner, that the absence of that partner causes great distress, interrupted sleep and health can decline quite rapidly in that situation.”

Research quoted by Talking Aged Care shows 50,000 residents in aged care are married or in a relationship.

Apparently 35% of new admissions into aged care facilities are partners.

Rahn believes management and staff should give couples the privacy to conduct their relationship however they see fit.

“I think it is time to investigate whether the present culture in residential aged care is suitable for the next generation,” she said.

“Some people welcome some space from their partner after all those years together but for those who do want to maintain that closeness it is actually very challenging for them.

“For many it’s extremely distressing, after so many years together, to be separated from the person they love

“We need to rethink what services we offer older couples. The current system suits singles reasonably well but it doesn’t suit couples at all because it doesn’t take into account their relationship.”

But the researcher isn’t pointing the finger at aged care facilities in particular.

She spoke about couples prevented from living in a room together because of limited funding or lack of space.


“Federal funding is quite restrictive,” she said.

“Many facilities budgeting arrangements are not sufficiently flexible to allow another person to come into the room without government funding coming in for that person.”

Do you agree with what the researcher said? Should more couples be allowed to share a room at aged care facilities?


  1. desleigh clarke  

    My Mum was in an aged care place with dementia for 10 years, died qt 98! They were marvellous but I dread it myself.
    Think I may have to take matters into my own hands rather than have 10 years of nothingness – just awful. Watching it was heartbreaking too, sometimes she knew us but mostly not and at the end she knew nothing for weeks. Surely there’s a better way.

  2. Yes, I really think this is a human rights issue. How on earth do people make these decisions for the aged! I believe it is immoral. Just because one is elderly, they should be able to make the decision to continue living with their partner if they choose and if they are mentally able to make the decision.

    • Jennice  

      …..the correct word, on this occasion, is ‘amoral’……
      There’s nothing ‘immoral’ about married persons’ being in the same room!

    • Kiss all your rights goodbye when you shift into a nursing home, and all your assets, including your home, pension and precious things that you worked all your life for. Nursing homes, often run by religious groups, are money making organisations, uncharitable, greedy and leave a lot to be desired. Most carers respect the elderly but are overworked. Many trained nurses treat residents as patients in a hospital, but do very little hands on work. They just do not get it! The highly paid for space of a tiny room is supposed to replace the home of the resident and treated as such, but it rarely is. It would be too inconvenient to have a married couple sharing.
      Senior staff often make decisions for elderly, or co-erce them without understanding their real needs or wants, and too bad if you require extra time for feeding, or more food than the 95 year olds needs or medication not on the subsidised list. Little private life and any excuse not to dress and get the more needy elderly up, even though they get paid more money for them. Residents can even feel intimidated and many just give up the ghost. Pressure is being placed on elderly people to go quietly, they are no longer respected or revered for their wisdom or experience, or living in their home that they are told should be leaving for their children – or undesirable immigrants. In fact, in spite of the pledge to provide safe and suitable homes for elderly, it appears that “non compatible refugees” are already moving into their space because the government pays more money and the righteous establishments have no concern for the safety, confusion and fear of the residents. Do selfish young people have any idea the hardships and sacrifices they made in trying to provide a home and better life for their children under very deprived and difficult circumstance and then have it all taken off them. Many of them did not even have a frige or washing machine, much less new furniture and the luxuries of modern living. No they are being cheated by our governments and made to feel guilty about collecting a pension after paying taxes all their lives. Euthanasia is being pushed down their throats as a convenient better choice to suffering and many elderly people are being made to feel they do not have any other options. We are being betrayed by our poliiticians and our churches for their moment of “Glory” and dictated to by a corrupt United Nations. We live in a very sick world.

      • Wiso  

        What a great comment Veronique !!
        Over a period of 20 years I too have come to this very conclusion. I have worked in and around this field for 20 years and I now dread the day when I require care as I have no surviving children and have just lost my husband of 51 years so will need to rely on these services when I can no longer care for myself. That terrifies me as I already see and experience the total disrespect the younger generation has for the elderly.

        I recently broke my wrist badly on my dominant hand and even though one of the bones were snapped off completely I was told straight to my face that there was no point in doing surgery to repair it properly because of my age. If I was 10 or 20 years younger they would have done surgery but for me it would be a waste of money !!!

        It is this attitude that I find so insulting and is in fact legalised discrimination based solely on my age !!!
        It made me feel worthless and reinforced that I don’t matter in this modern world even though I was active in the workforce until just 1 year ago and still pay my taxes to help provide services for those very people who disrespect and de-value me !!

    • It was difficult to bring up “comment”. I wrote a lengthy response from an awful recent experience with my sister and knowledge gained from my job years ago in setting up training programmes to get long term unemployed back into the workforce, including aged Care. I cannot access that response and do hope it did not get lost after all my trouble.

  3. frank Baldock  

    Just another instance of Government strategy, separate the old couples and they will die sooner, savings in pension payments and chemist safety net items to name but two.

  4. Lyn  

    My parents needed to move into care at the same time and we were fortunate enough to find a facility that would allow them to sleep in the same room (single beds pushed together) and then have the other room as a living / sitting room. It worked well until my mum had a stroke and staff required to get to both sides of her bed to provide lifting etc for her. Separating our parents at this stage was pretty devastating to my father, although mum with her dementia, wasn’t at all fussed.

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