The first of many planned Royal Commission Community Forums kicked off on Friday in the Western Sydney region of Bankstown late last week, giving members of the public a chance to voice their opinions and hear about the ongoing work of the official Royal Commission proceedings in Adelaide.

The forum heard a series of emotional and powerful accounts of the many issues plaguing the sector, from both members of the public, and the carers who were fed up with working conditions that they felt stifled their ability to be able to deliver care in a way that they felt was required.

Lynelle Briggs, commissioner, Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, indicated that these community forums were a great way to hear from as many voices as possible and get a sense of the broad range of issues that they need to address and they want it to be a less formal setting.

”We want to hear from members of the public about their experience of aged care including its problems, its strengths, and what we can do to make things better,” said Lynelle Briggs AO.

“We initiated these community forums in a way to hear from all of you in a less formal way than the usual Royal Commission hearings which can appear, and actually are, quite scary. And they’re quite legalistic, so it’s much better having an environment like this where everyone gets a chance to have their say.”

While media were not allowed to record the public testimony from those speaking at the forum, members of the public were given 4-5min to tell their stories while media scrambled to take notes.

And it was clear from the outset, that many of the speakers had a lot to get off their chest.

Graphic testimony from a nurse that said she was sick of seeing ‘fist-sized bed sores’ when she went to attend residents, and the overuse of medication, were just some of the stories that shed light on the problems that aged care workers were facing.

While other workers highlighted a lack of training and staffing ratios as other areas that need to be addressed.

The forum also heard from members of the general public who had family members in care, who felt as though many of their complaints regarding aged care services were not being heard.

Julia Rafferty, who has a relative currently living with dementia in an aged care facility, spoke with reporters outside of the community forum about the hot topic of antipsychotic drugs, and the effects that she believed they were having on her brother.

“Seeing him on Risperidone: his muscles cramped up, he could barely sit down, he would try to sit down as if he was broken in half,” she said.

“He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, they were stroke-like symptoms. The family took him to the doctor because they thought he had a stroke, and the doctor said no – this is the side effects of the drugs.”

“I urge all Australians to raise their voice to the Royal Commission for Aged Care because if you don’t, be aware, it will be you one day.”

One aged care employee spoke passionately about the real-world implications that the lack of staffing was having on those that she was trying to care for, highlighting just how tough industry conditions were getting for some nurses and carers.

Saying that aged care workers really do care, but sometimes they don’t even have enough time to do simple things, like giving a person a hug when they seem to be in need.

She then made an emotional plea for more young people to choose a career in the aged care industry, but understood that low pay-rates and hard-work were making the task of recruiting difficult.

The next Royal Commission Community Forum will be held tomorrow (Tue March 5)  at the Bendigo Town Hall in Victoria.
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