ABC’s Q&A on aged care leaves host and panel in tears

Q&A aged care

Last night’s episode of Q&A, aired on the eve of the royal commission handing down its report on aged care to the government, was dedicated to the topic of how we care for older Australians.

Members of the audience told of seeing loved ones the victim of abuse in aged care, of sexual assault, of those living with dementia dreading the prospect of moving into a nursing home, and, in the end, how the system has, time and time, again failed older Australians.

The devastation, anxiety and frustration were palpable, and the episode left many in tears, including members of the panel and, at times, host Hamish McDonald himself.

Sexual assaults in aged care: an abomination on society

Audience member Yumi Lee asked what does the fact that there are 50 sexual assaults in aged care homes every week tell us about how we treat older women?

In response, geriatrician Professor Joseph Ibrahim said report after report has been written for the government on the topic of sexual assault in aged care, and yet nothing has been done.

“It makes me incredibly angry,” he admitted.

It’s as though “older women don’t matter… That’s an abomination on our society,” Ibrahim said.

Should aged care neglect be criminal?

Lea Hammond shared the harrowing story of her father Brian’s experience in aged care. The story had been aired on 7.30 earlier in the evening, revealing that her father, a resident at Perth’s Regis Nedlands, was left outside in the sun for two hours on a 40-degree day. 

Brian suffered such severe illness and injuries after the event, he required hospitalisation and later died. 

Host Hamish McDonald asked, “Given all the scrutiny there has been on the aged care system while the royal commission has been underway, doesn’t it defy belief that something like this is happening?”

Better care in prison

Audience member Robyn Weinberg said she and her husband, who are both in their 70s, “pray we will die” before they have to move into residential aged care and said they would receive better care in prison.

“Why do profits come before people,” she asked, suggesting that all MPs spend a week in a high-needs aged care home to understand the realities.

Clare O’Neil, Shadow Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services responded with her own question.

“Is it possible to run a dignified, civilised aged care system by private providers?” she asked, indicating she hopes the royal commission’s final report will go some way towards providing an answer.

She said women have a 55% chance of living in an aged care home and will spend two to three years there. She said the topic impacts more people than you might think.

30% of residents receive no visitors

Mike Baird, former NSW premier and now CEO of Hammond Care, said Australia has lost its value for care workers and nurses and our culture does not appreciate older people. 

He described aged care workers as “an army of angels” who are “undervalued and undertrained”.

“For some reason” Australians do not value older people as they do in other nations, he said.

Baird noted that between 30% and 40% of Hammond Care’s aged care residents receive no visitors. “It’s a real problem,” he observed.

Host reduced to tears

Tim Granger, who is living with young onset dementia, said he was “horrified” at the prospect of moving into an aged care home in his 60s.

The outlook is “really scary,” said his daughter Pru, adding that the family didn’t know if it would be able to afford high-quality care.

“I’m so sorry that is a choice your family has to make,” said McDonald, choking back tears.

Discrimination against older people

Ibrahim said he doesn’t expect the government will respond swiftly to the royal commission recommendations. “There’s been no track record” of that, he said.

“There’s a level of discrimination that occurs when you get old and the minute you hit 65 you’re no longer eligible for disability services.”

He encouraged every person under 65 living with dementia to register for NDIS, and lobby for the condition to be recognised as a disability, and they will be “better off”.

“We’ve lost the dignity of the person in aged care,” he said.

One Twitter commenter asked why Ibrahim isn’t running the country.

‘Thank you’ the only remaining words

The show concluded on a sombre note, with Allen describing her father’s final years living with dementia. Once a doctor, he was left with no words other than ‘thank you’. 

“It’s a terrible disease,” she said through tears. It was important to have the conversation about voluntary assisted dying, she said.

Last night’s Q&A, and the evening’s earlier 7.30 report, are the latest in the ABC’s important journalism about aged care, which ultimately leads to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

It remains to be seen how the royal commission proposes we fix this mess, and how fully the government takes any recommendations up.

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  1. Devoted 20 years to nursing in aged care, have just had to resign due to illness. Did ask for leave without pay hoping I get better. My answer was a big fat no but feel free to work as volunteer. So yes feel under valued for all the work I have done. Have seen a lot of things over the years, will the commission change things? I don’t think so the culture has to be addressed and the dead wood cut out

  2. Ratios, there’s none. We have been begging for years for govt to give us ratios. Staff are overworked, under paid, management don’t listen or even read our progress notes. 1 RN to 100 most nights, with 1 AIN/PCW in each ward is NOT good enough. I left & went into community care. Still can’t get enough staff there either. The govt won’t do anything. 😡😡💔

  3. I so agree with everythg what was said on [email protected] last night. I worked for 3 years as a nurse at Regis and I tried so hard to improve the Residents lifes but it is just impossible. Aged care Facilities are badly understaffed so anybody who needs a job will get one. Which results in horrible care for the Residents. It broke my heart so many times to witness how old people are treated and spoken to. Please demolish this nursing homes and create places where everybody is looked after with care and love. Our older generation deserves so much better.

  4. We are tired burned to ground and stressed. I love elderly and they deserve the best care hugs and kisses. Without them we are nothing. Government managers all high up people should work for just one week and see how they go. Some facility I worked as RN it was horendes abuse and abuse to me as nurse was horrific from some staff. No respect. I could write book. The money where is gone no staff no nurses to help us. The new nurses do not have clue about elderly it is shame we are the best country in world and yet poor in elderly care all becouse of higher up there in office dictators.

  5. I worked in a facility i on central coast and male resident sexually assaulted a old woan who was unable to tell anyone and the boss took the perpetrator out for lunch to say he couldnt do that. Disgusting.

  6. emediate start would be ratio care in all facility’s with appropriate skill mix. we need staff to care for our elderly yes increase wages for nurses/well english speaking trained cares just may attract staff that actually no how to nurse care for human beings.

  7. Unfortunately I missed the program and wonder if there is a re run of it; I ‘v worked in an Aged Care facility for 33 years as a carer and now a Lifestyle Coordinator for approx 15 years of that time; Our facility is Community owned with no one taking profits from the top in a small country town where on the whole we have a community who cares; however I get real concerns at times with hearing and seeing some of the results from the NDIS programme; I am seeing many loopholes or is it misunderstanding of a system where people are being told they don’t meet the criteria and these people are left wanting assistance with no one listening to them; I am almost 77 years of age still working but get so fraustrated and feel helpless at times not in our facility but our in the general community; I was recently told that I could not save the world; Our facility is of a high standard of care and I cannot understand how things happen in facilities if everyone followed what is set down in the Standards of Aged Care; At present in our world all I see is man’s inhumanity to man with money over ruling all God help us all!!!

  8. The government should take the control of all aged care facilities under the one umbrella and set up guidelines regarding training.One senior nurse should head a team and work together as a team with the senior Rn.giving the leadership,how each resident is to be cared for and make sure this is carried through.

  9. At the moment where I work it is all about customer service. The belief being is that if it looks good it must be good. Any amount of money is spent bending over backwards to appease the relatives, when no money is available for extra properly trained staff. I wish the powers that be would pull there heads out of there asses and realize that a properly trained well staffed residence is all you need to make a dieing person’s last days comfortable. Of course there are other issues but this seems to be the main issue at this time

  10. I have worked in agrd care and spent most of my time advocating for the elderly trying to ensure quality of life for them.
    I now work in disability supporting them in homes and for the love of god how respectful and dignified it is.
    Why the hell it isnt the same for elderly i dont know.
    We are trained with hoists etc and the elderly would be able to spend their golden years the way they should be spending them.
    How the elderly are treated is criminal.

  11. So Mr Baird calls aged care workers “an army of angels”. Please, can we do without the stupid and infantilising cliches. Aged care workers, many (most in the ACT) who come from CALD backgrounds, are used by the Australian government as cheap labour to do the work Australians refuse to do, in the hope they can find a way to PR status. Until the government funds aged care appropriately then we will have these problems. Ridiculous comments like this simply gloss over the deeper structural issues.

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