“The measure of a society is how it cares for its elderly”: Right Now We Don’t Measure Up

Media Release from Annie Butler – ANMF Federal Branch

Today, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and key national medical groups have been joined by Professor John Pollaers, Chair of the 2018 Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce, in calling on Prime Minister Morrison, the Government and all sides of the Australian Parliament, to legislate and fund minimum staffing ratios that deliver the holistic care plans required to ensure safe and best practice care for all elderly Australians.

In June this year, the Taskforce delivered its report ‘A Matter of Care – Australia’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy’, which identified 14 strategic actions aimed at boosting workforce supply, addressing demand issues and improving workforce productivity.

However, Professor Pollaers and the Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Ms Annie Butler, along with key medical groups, are deeply concerned that the report’s recommendations risk being ignored by politicians, who have now deferred the crisis in aged care to a Royal Commission.

Professor Pollaers and Ms Butler said today they recognise the Aged Care Royal Commission is important and necessary, but it should not mean a delay in reforms.

If we continue to delay doing what we know is right it means at least another 18 months of pain and suffering for the elderly and, potentially, too many undignified deaths.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge the efforts of those in the workforce and aged care industry who strive daily to support those in need.

Photo: Annie Butler, Secretary ANMF Federal Branch and Professor John Pollaers, Chair of the 2018 Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.
Photo: Annie Butler, Secretary ANMF Federal Branch and Professor John Pollaers, Chair of the 2018 Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

“Australia has the opportunity to be a world leader in our delivery of aged care just as we are in our delivery of health care.

Older Australians, those who cared for us as we grew, are entitled to affordable, accessible and high‐quality aged care services delivered by a professionally trained, accredited and dedicated workforce.

They do not deserve the current chronic understaffing and underfunding that leads to unnecessary wait lists, unmet expectations, pain and suffering.

“Studies identify that the main reason for missed care, or low‐quality care, in residential aged care facilities is that there is not enough staff available. And in a sector with an increasingly poor record of recruitment and retention of nurses and other key staff, shortages are now reaching critical proportions.

“Caring for elderly people, especially those with behavioural and psychological symptoms of Dementia and other disabling health conditions, is a stressful occupation requiring the right people with the right knowledge and skills to develop and implement holistic care plans customised to individual needs.

Holistic care plans require focus on clinical, functional, and cognitive health along with living well aspirations and cultural needs.

The workforce’s skills mix and staffing levels also needs to reflect the differing needs of all residents at different times.

“A living well model of care, which enables effective care delivery by dedicated registered nurses with qualified care‐workers and is guided by interdisciplinary teams of general practitioners, geriatricians, palliative care specialists, nurse practitioners, dietitians, speech pathologists and allied health workers, will result in safe and best practice care for our elderly.

“But the only way we can be sure that every elderly Australian has access to the safe and best practice care they deserve is to legislate minimum staffing ratios in aged care that deliver the holistic care plans required.

“Staffing ratios need not stifle innovation. Instead, they can lay the foundation on which better quality standards can be built. And while mandated staffing ratios alone are not the only indicator of high-quality aged care services, it is certain that high quality care cannot be achieved without them.

“We know it requires investment, but we also know that the investment will be recovered through more jobs and by productivity gains over time. All politicians must face up to the funding shortfall required to ensure the minimum staffing levels and skills mix are in place and that government funding is tied to the delivery of holistic care.

“The measure of a society is how it cares for its elderly, those who cared for us.

“Right now we don’t measure up, but we can, and we can become the world leader in care for the elderly we should be.”

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  1. In May,19 the Morrison Liberal government is most likely going to be wiped out. After that the Andrews and Shorten Labour governments will have a long to do list. The Aged Care Act needs to be amended to include mandatory nurse patient ratios, the Drugs and Poisons Act needs to be amended to stop PCAs administering medications and the Guardianship Act needs to be amended to make it compulsory to have two independent Guardians and POAs. This simple change to the Guardianship Act should significantly reduce criminal activity around elder abuse. Corporate Aged Care needs to be made much more transparent so that companies which are receiving hundreds of millions in public funding meet minimum standards around care, accounting standards, tax avoidance and evasion and employment law. Staff need secure safe work because without this there is never going to be safe care in this sector.

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