Media Release: Royal Commission

The Royal Commission’s next public hearing will run over two weeks in Sydney, commencing on 6 May 2019. At the hearing the Royal Commission will inquire into the quality and safety of residential aged care, with a focus on care for people living with dementia.

Australia’s population is ageing and there are increasing numbers of older Australians living with dementia. This hearing will provide insights into whether the residential aged care system is coping with these challenges and, if not, what is going wrong. There will be a focus on the key elements of quality dementia care.

The hearing will begin with direct accounts of the experiences of people living in the residential aged care system, and accounts from people living with dementia and their carers. These personal accounts are expected to provide powerful and compelling insights into the experience of residential aged care, particularly for those living with dementia.

In the first four days of the hearing (commencing on the afternoon of 6 May, and covering 7, 8 and 13 May), the Commission will inquire into allegations of poor care and mistreatment by certain providers, and will hear evidence from those providers. These case studies are expected to shed light on particular issues relevant to the quality and safety of care provided to residents living with dementia.

In its second week (13-17 May), the Commission will hear evidence from aged care workers, nurses, clinical experts, innovative provider organisations, policy advocates and representatives from the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Dementia is an umbrella term for more than 100 progressive conditions of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease. Many of these conditions can have a very long and gradual progression. Their effects vary widely, from individual-to-individual. Dementia and its potential effects are often misunderstood, both in residential care and in the wider community. People living with dementia generally respond very well to care that shows empathy, that is holistic and responsive to individual needs, and that involves the maintenance and development of relationships, human contact and social connection. The Royal Commission’s Background Paper 3 – Dementia in Australia: nature, prevalence and care was released today.

The Commission is aware of significant public and professional concern about the use of physical restraints and overuse of psychotropic drugs (in particular antipsychotics and benzodiazepines) in residential aged care to manage behaviour of people living with dementia. Clinical evidence about these practices will be a focus of the hearing. The evidence is expected to be overwhelmingly against them.

The hearing will also involve consideration of the exposure of residents with dementia to substandard clinical and personal care.

Experts expected to give evidence at the hearing include Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO (University of New South Wales), Professor Joseph Ibrahim (Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University), Dr Juanita Westbury, (Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, University of Tasmania), Mr Glenn Rees (Chairman, Alzheimer’s Disease International) and the Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy.

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