If we are to use freelance carers to look after our elderly, what are the appropriate checks and balances we should have in place to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of our society are kept safe?

Ad should ring alarm bells

An advertisement that appeared in a free Gold Coast newsletter advertising the services of a “retired nurse” for “senior sitting” should ring alarm bells, lawyer Christine Smyth told the ABC.

With growing numbers of seniors being cared for at home, she said there is greater possibility that our seniors could be exposed to elder abuse.

Carers may not always be able to be monitored in a home, said Ms Smyth, who specialises in laws affecting the elderly.

“You don’t have the luxury of having someone else always in the home when the aged carer… is there,” she said.

More vetting is required

Ms Smyth questioned the safety of having elderly people cared for by unvetted freelance carers.

“It is placing the responsibility on the people who are using those individualised services to check and to check thoroughly,” she said.

How do we know that freelance carers have the appropriate skills or personality type to work with the frail and elderly?

Carers without the appropriate skills, experience, or personality type may struggle with the unique challenges faced by aged care workers.

Working With Children Checks could be adapted for aged care workers

Ms Smyth said aged care workers should undergo checks similar to those for people who work with children.

In Queensland, a ‘blue card’ system is used to show that Working with Children Checks have been completed. Similar WWCC checks also apply in other states.

Ms Smyth says the WWCC checks could be adapted nation wide to show that people who are caring for seniors have been through a screening process.

Under current systems, all aged care workers who receive federal government funding must complete police and background checks.

Putting barriers in the way of elder abuse

Ms Smith said no system could completely protect the elderly from elder abuse, but putting the appropriate checks in place could at least put “a barrier” in its way.

Speaking on 7 News Gold Coast, Ms Smyth said, “What we don’t want is sad incidents occuring when people suffer before we can put something in place.”

With the aged care system shifting towards a greater emphasis on home care, the conversation about the appropriate checks and balances for freelance aged care workers is an important one.

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