In October last year, the federal government finally established a royal commission into aged care, after a Senate inquiry received numerous complaints among its 5000 submissions.
According to newsGP, a publication of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the problems in aged care range from “poor standards of care, physical assaults and extremely challenging working conditions”.
A big part of the problem is understaffing. RACGP president Harry Nespolon said in October 2018 that “GPs have been concerned with the lack of government investment and the inadequate staffing levels within residential aged care facilities” for a long time.
Green Left Weekly spoke to Mary*, who resides in a retirement home in Melbourne, about why she feels dissatisfied. Mary, who has difficulty walking because of arthritis, often has to wait when she needs help. “‘Wait’ is the most popular word in this place,” she told me.
Mary lost her room key some time ago, but the administration has still not replaced it. Other residents often wander into her room without permission, she said, and if she locks her door when she leaves, she has to ask a staff member to let her back in.
Life is also “boring”, she said. It has been many months since she was taken on an excursion to a nearby neighbourhood house. Entertainers are occasionally brought into the home, but not often enough, she thinks.
Some staff members treat residents like children, she said, including telling her when to go to bed and turning off the television in the middle of a program. While this no longer happens, it indicates a tendency among some staff to unnecessarily exert control over residents.
[*Mary is not her real name.]