Living the dream - or not?

Aged care: Not something we factor into our happily ever after plan

OPINION
Aged Care Royal Commission
NO PIPEDREAM: Australians need confidence in our aged care system.

NO PIPEDREAM: Australians need confidence in our aged care system.

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How can we feel confident consigning our most vulnerable into the care of others?

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When I grow up, I want to be a journalist and write stories for newspapers.

I'll get married, maybe not to a prince but to a really nice boy, and we'll have three or four kids.

We'll work hard, build a lovely house and raise our family to be good people. Then we'll retire and travel Australia - maybe the world.

When we're done, we'll be pretty worn out so will move into aged care and live out our days happily with other old folk.

What? No one dreams of, or really wants, to go into aged care. It's generally not something we factor into our happily ever after plan.

My mother certainly didn't. From an early age she told us there was no way she would ever go into one of "those places". They're not that bad, we told her, while assuring her she could - and should - stay at home for as long as she wanted.

Unfortunately, for many families, there comes a time when they can no longer provide the care a loved one needs to remain living at home. It can be a devastating realisation for all concerned.

We only want the very best for our mum or dad, aunt or uncle, gran or pop.

When the time came for my mother to enter care, she wasn't quite kicking and screaming but she was not happy - in a big way.

Fortunately for us she embraced her new lifestyle and, ever the trouper, became a shining example of aged care done right.

That isn't always the case, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted.

How can we place our loved ones into the care of others when we are uncertain how good that care will be when the commissioners determined that one in three aged care residents has suffered substandard care?

Or that up to 18 per cent of residents have either been physically or sexually assaulted?

Our frail elderly deserve the very best of care... to live in safety in an environment that nurtures, not one that penalises them for growing old.

The government has a tough job ahead to turn our perception of aged care around. And so does the industry; it will be tough going. Any who can't handle the pressure or see a clear way forward for their residents and staff, should get out now.

Accountability 'key'

Hot on the heels of the release of the aged care royal commission report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $452 million funds injection, with more flagged in the May federal budget.

In the report, commissioner Lynelle Briggs wrote that at times during the inquiry it "felt like the government's main consideration was what was the minimum commitment it could get away with, rather than what should be done to sustain the aged care system". Harsh words but true.

Many would also point fingers at residential aged care providers for the same reason. Care must come before profits - always.

Providers must be able to give their residents the best care possible and also put funds aside for necessary improvements, renovations and expansions. They should not be focused on big profits for shareholders or chief executives.

Extra government funding is welcome - and sorely needed - but will mean nothing unless it is used properly. Providers must be made accountable for how they use the funds.

And oversight of aged care must be rigorous if we are to again feel confident in consigning our most vulnerable into the care of others. We've drawn a line in the sand; the future of aged care starts now.

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