An alliance of aged care consumer and carer groups have outlined a shared vision for aged care that puts the “human needs” of older Australians at its centre.

It comes at a time when Australia’s aged care system is under intense scrutiny and pressure, and its failures have been exposed by COVID-19 and the Aged Care Royal Commission. 

The 10 shared principles have the aim of helping all older Australians get the support they choose, when and where they need it and be treated with dignity and respect, by an aged care workforce that is trained and equipped to provide the standard of care older Australians and their families expect and deserve.

The alliance includes: Carers Australia, COTA Australia, Dementia Australia, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia, National Seniors Australia and the Older Persons Advocacy Network.

Time for an overhaul

Council on the Ageing Chief Executive, Ian Yates AM, said, “It’s time to overhaul a system that puts the needs of providers and bureaucracy above the human needs of every older Australian. 

“Structurally, culturally and legislatively we have the opportunity to rebuild our aged care system so that it places the needs and preferences of consumers at its very centre. 

“Older Australians must have both choice and control over the supports they receive – whether that’s at home, in specialist housing, or in a residential aged care setting. 

“Above all, the system must ensure every Australian enjoys the highest quality of life as we age.”

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe, said dementia care must be taken into account. “Around 459,000 Australians are living with dementia. Consistent and equitable access to quality dementia care must be a cornerstone of aged care, and we must focus on building the capacity of our workforce to understand and support people with dementia.”

“Everyone will benefit from an improved aged care system,” said Older Persons Advocacy Network CEO, Craig Gear OAM. “As our population ages, we need a system that allows older people to contribute and belong. Older people and their carers deserve better.”

10-point plan

The alliance’s shared vision is as follows.

  1. A better Aged Care Act that is designed to uphold human rights and ensure consumer choice and control; containing stronger protections for consumers; and better accountability of aged care providers, with tiered enforcement measures and penalties.
  2. A simple system where care is guaranteed within 30 days and easy to access whether at home, in the community or in residential aged care (including future de-institutionalised models).
  3. Requirements that ensure full transparency about staffing, quality measures, complaints, compliance and financial outcomes and supported by easy to understand indicators to help inform consumer choice. 
  4. A trained, registered and qualified workforce across all care settings, with the right number of staff to ensure quality support and care, with the right skills to meet all their consumers needs and positive attitudes to working with older people.
  5. Proper recognition and support for the role of unpaid family/friend carers who help people to stay at home, with dedicated flexible carer support services designed to preserve their health and wellbeing.
  6. Easy to understand information and local solutions available for older people and their families/friends, supported by care finding, advocacy or case management when they need it to ensure older people access and receive the care they need, when they need it. 
  7. A strongly resourced regulator that takes robust action to ensure consumer protections, and fosters public confidence in quality aged care through vigorously investigating, enforcing and prosecuting breaches of standards utilising a wide range of enforcement tools and penalties.
  8. Core business practices that respect all clients with diverse characteristics and life experiences, by ensuring all services are inclusive, culturally safe and sensitive.
  9. A funding model that grows with the population, ensures sufficient taxpayer funding; balanced with consumer contributions where they can afford to pay. Future funding will provide individuals control over their funding, introduce independent pricing regulated by Government and ensure transparency by service providers in how funds are spent.  
  10. Better integration of other health and wellbeing services into aged care including but not limited to disability, general practice, palliative care, pharmacy, primary, allied, community, oral and mental health systems.

Image: Scharfsinn86, iStock.

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