To complain or not to complain? The shocking aged-care dilemma 202



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We all want our parents to be as comfortable as possible when they’re living in aged care, but what happens when you complain about their treatment?

The ABC Radio program AM heard this morning that complaining can be treading on a veritable minefield, with relatives being subjected to verbal and even physical abuse and prevented from taking photos of their parents inside the homes.

A woman who identified herself as Sue – who collected photos on her mobile when she was visiting her mother – said when she raised concerns with management she was “bullied and harassed”.

“Anything that I brought up she just howled me down and said ‘no we’re not doing it for you’,” she told AM.

“At the last meeting I brought up about her bullying and intimidation and she just went right off. She sat there with her arms folded. Someone said ‘you should just take your mother out’ — I said that is not the point.”

Another woman who used the name Natalie, which is not her real name, also claims she was bullied and abused when she complained about how her 87-year-old mother was being treated.

“I’ve been chased out onto the street. I’ve had the manager of the nursing home put her hand on me on two occasions,” Natalie told AM.

The situation has become so bad that she takes her daughter with her when she visits her mother because she is afraid to go alone.

The obvious way to solve the problem is to move her mother, but the extra cost entailed makes that difficult.

Shocking as their comments were, they were not news to consumer group Aged Care Concerns.

Director Walter Dinale said it had received dozens of people with similar complaints about poor treatment from aged centre staff.

He said in many cases people were at a loss about what to do.

“A lot of our inquiries are about loved ones taking photos of their relatives in facilities,” Mr Dinale said.

“And then being told they’re contravening privacy laws and then being threatened with legal action and then retreating because they fear the care factor for their loved ones is going to diminish if they do take action.”

AM was told consumer groups are lobbying for an ombudsman to oversee aged-care facilities because so many relatives are unhappy with their relatives’ treatment and the response when they make a suggestion for improvement.

Are these complaints the exception rather than the rule? Are most aged-care facilities, in fact, doing a good job?  (Please avoid identifying any facilities if you make a negative comment).

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  1. This situation is shocking, why is the Government not setting up agencies to monitor these Nursing homes, many people have no choice but to put an older family member into one of these facilities, elder abuse should never happen in this country

    13 REPLY
    • They do monitor the homes. I will tell you what I saw as cruel, families placing loved ones into aged care then not visiting except for when they are on their death bed. And send flowers on Christmas and Mother’s Day. Big deal the loves would rather see their families in person.

      1 REPLY
    • That is shocking Debbie Maclean but there is nothing we can do about heartless families, but according to that article the elderly are being abused by staff in those homes and if the Government is monitoring it , then they are not doing a good job

    • They do monitor them indeed, but ring to tell the home the date and time a week earlier allowing the home to get in extra staff and usually a new menu.

      3 REPLY
      • So right Denise. I worked in an nursing home years ago and when I rang authorities to complain about the food etc being served. They rsnd the home and informed them time,date thry would be there. So in doing that the menu, and kitchen had a spring clean and staff and linen were in abundance.
        All went back to being the same once inspection was done. I am hoping that doesn’t happen these days.

      • So right Denise. I worked in an nursing home years ago and when I rang authorities to complain about the food etc being served. They would ring the home and informed them time,date they would be there. So in doing that the menu, and kitchen had a spring clean and staff and linen were in abundance.
        All went back to being the same once inspection was done. I am hoping that doesn’t happen these days.

      • It’s a shame they don’t have the same systems as NZ. When we owned the dementia facility we used to get spot audits – the auditors would just arrive on the doorstep – no warning at all. The facilities that weren’t up to scratch had so many days to rectify the things they weren’t doing, and if they didn’t they lost their funding.

    • oh dear is not much help Denise Knight , these inspections should be kept secret until they arrive

    • I’m old and my family from young to old are really good to me. I do think though that with the domestic violence issue so prevalent here it would also include aged relatives.

    • Shirley Sanson common or not NO abuse from staff should ever be tolerated and consumer groups are lobbying for an ombudsman to oversee aged-care facilities suggests to me there is a problem and it is wide spread

    • No, Leanna Stephenson, they are definitely informed. I’ve been told that the Childcare places are the same but that is only hearsay.

    • Shirley Sanson tell that to the families of those people who burnt to death when Roger Dean, set the Quakers Hill Nursing Home alight

    • That was criminal, shocking and the worst kind of abuse ever, should never have happened, i would like to know where the rest of the staff were!!!!

    • Leanna Stephenson of coarse no abuse should be tolereated we all agree on that, but by the same token no abuse should be tolerated at staff by families and or clients either, and that does happen!!

  2. My sister’s put our dad in a home I moved there to be with him everyday xxoo was not a great experience horrible did my best to assist him

  3. There for The Grace of God go you or I. We are all aging, this could be any one of us in one of these homes in the future, we need to push to clean this situation up now and save these elderly people or in years to come we may be the ones getting abused

  4. Our lovely Mother was in Mercy at the end of her life – they could not have been more caring, responsible or loving, yet their patients had all kinds of grumbles and complaints as well as memory loss and incontinence, its a very tough job.

    2 REPLY
  5. Also he thanked me every day and I responded I owed him for a lifetime of love and generosity he gave our mum and myself and my children my sister’s got power of attorney and phoned me the day before he was moving in I went every day for 4 months til he passed he hated it I couldn’t get him to eat so sad he was93 and very active til then

    4 REPLY
    • And I have heard that some callous clods even ship their mother/father off to hospital when they want to go on holiday!!

    • I know Ruth they sold his home when I was there I used to say to me I have money why can’t I buy a house and we live together I could only say ask the bosses I would have slept on the floor next to him if I could I rented a unit close by just had a mattress on the floor went and got one plate bowl saucepan etc from vinnies I was lucky my son was staying at that time in my home in tweed I was down in nowra with dad was lucky I could be there for him one sister went overseas he passed while she was away so so unbelievable especially after he put her thru university and gave us so much kindness will not let in happen to me cheers

    • Ruth Sullivan Yes they do Ruth quite a lot of them, and also put them in Hospital over the christmas period just so they wont have to be bothered!!

  6. I have to say I have just been through my Mother in a nursing home, and was there visiting two to three times a week for a couple of hours. Could not fault anything. In fact had only praise, and my Mother the same. She would be the first to say something. They kept her active with something going on every day. She was 89. I did note meetings they complained about the meals, and insisted they should be getting barramundi. I had a little laugh as I can imagine that happening at $50 a kg. I saw the meals, and could not fault them. Soup, meat and vegetables and dessert for lunch. Pasta some days, always a variety. Lots of staff, and very patient with some dementia patients.
    One thing I did note was the lack of visitors. I was told some just drop them off, and they are never seen again. Some don’t have family at all. It is a very sad place to visit that is for sure.

    9 REPLY
    • I agree. When I went to visit my Dad every week a lot of the old people would want to talk to me. One lady told me that she had not seen her daughters since they put her in the home 7 years ago. I don’t know if she had dementia and if so if she had just forgotten. I do know that when I went to pick Dad up for Christmas Day a lot of the old people were staying in the home. They were not bed ridden and it was difficult to fathom why they would not be collected for Christmas Day. Maybe their families did not live close. Who knows?

      1 REPLY
      • We had a dementia facility for 12 years and it saddened me that sometimes the men wouldn’t visit their parents, until one day someone explained that on man’s son was so distraught at seeing them with advanced dementia he used to break down every time he saw them. It seems harder on the men that the women.
        Another elderly man used to visit his wife every day, even though she usually didn’t recognise him or know who he was, but when he left he would sit in his car and cry for half an hour before he could drive home.

    • That’s not true john murphy I work as a carer . Often short staff and hard work for $20 an hour. But we work hard and care about the residents and their family’s . Blame the government

    • I’ve worked in aged care for many years and it’s a very sad fact , that some are put in aged care facility’s and just left there with no visitors at all.

  7. I think an ombudsman with powers to investigate anonymously would be a good deterrent for shonky operators and helpful for relatives of the elderly !

  8. no…it dont shock me.. i saw enough when i worked there as a cleaner. its shocking. not human…

  9. My experience with my late parents revealed there was never enough staff fostered on each shift which always lead to inhuman results for many residents

    6 REPLY
    • Yes, despicable is harsh, I worked in Agecare! Definitely not enough staff, underpaid and as in all jobs some people should not be there!

    • Agree with you totally Brenda….I retired from Aged-Care last year & your statement is spot on

    • True in many cases. Interestly tho, for the odd few places that miss out @accreditation time there are many others who get thru . But believe me there are tricks of the trade that even fool those accreditation officers. So cause they pass doesn’t mean jt us a good place.

    • Understaffing is NOT the staff’s fault . Want to blame someone? Then blame government lack of knowledge on the issue and the private ownees -iincluding church-based homes ! Older peopl want a HOME, not an institution , to stay in !!

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