What do Australians really think about ageing and aged care?

Australians may misunderstand older people but want them to be looked after.

mature couple

No matter the age and stage of life they’re currently in, Australians want to live independently at home for as long as possible – and they want more help to do so, according to new research from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The two new research papers released today cover Australians’ attitudes towards ageing and aged care.

The first, What Australians think of Ageing and Aged Care, was prepared for the royal commission by Roy Morgan, who surveyed 10,000 people on their views on ageing and aged care.

The second, They look after you, you look after them: Community attitudes to ageing and aged care, was prepared for the royal commission by Ipsos, and is the result of 35 focus groups and 30 in-depth interviews conducted from July to September 2019.

The research explored why younger Australians may present negative attitudes towards older people.

“Negative perceptions are seen by many as contributing to older people being overlooked or ‘invisible’ within our society,” the papers said.

“The absence of older people from the workplace, combined with the limited ways in which many younger adults encounter them in their day-to-day lives, means that many people have little exposure to older Australians.

“The wider population are seen by some as affording older people less respect and value than given to previous generations.”

However, almost all those surveyed said they valued older people and wanted them to be properly looked after when they did need support or care.

The papers revealed that Australians of all ages wanted assistance to live independently in their own home during their retirement years rather than ever having to go to an aged care facility. They confirmed the need for major reform to the aged care system in order to meet community expectations.

“Australians want the government and community to assist older people to live well in their own homes for as long as possible. The royal commission has been investigating how to achieve that,” said royal commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs.

The general perception of aged care facilities was damning.

“The facilities are seen as depressing, clinical environments and as places to die rather than places to live,” stated the researchers.

“The nature of the environment in aged care facilities is seen as contributing to a decline in health and quality of life, and reduction of life expectancy.”

The royal commission says most Australians are setting themselves up to age in place for as long as possible, but that some levels of care don’t come cheap and may not always come from immediate family and relatives.

“The large majority of older people who are living independently enjoy happy, healthy and active lives. They make lifestyle choices to keep themselves independent and healthy as long as possible, including spending time exercising,” said a royal commission statement.

“However, a number of older people need support to continue living independently, such as help with shopping, cooking, cleaning and attending medical appointments.”

While most people would prefer to receive this support from their family and friends, the bulk of this higher level support ends up coming from paid help.

Family support for older relatives is far more common among people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Any higher-level assistance, such as help with dressing, eating, going to the bathroom and nursing care, tends to come from paid help, as most people think it would be inappropriate and burdensome for family.

Still, people of all ages have a strong preference to remain living in their own home should they ever need support or care. Only 25 per cent of older people would prefer to live in a facility should they need that level of care.

The federal government’s announcement last week of more than 6000 new home care packages should help some older Australians stay at home for longer. This is on top of the 50,000 in-home packages added since the 2018/19 budget at a cost of $3 billion.

However, more than 104,000 older Australians were still waiting for packages that had already been approved for them.

Around 84 per cent of adults surveyed had visited a residential aged care facility and had a very negative opinion of life in these facilities, saying residents often seemed lonely, did not have control over their lives and were not happy, even if they did have access to medical care and were safe in comfortable, well-maintained accommodation.

Overall, respondents were divided on whether residents actually received the help they needed, whether they were respected, and whether there were enough activities to keep them active and entertained.

Most people had little idea about how much the government spent on aged care, only 9 per cent knew about the government’s aged care information service, My Aged Care, and only 4 per cent knew about the aged care regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The lack of awareness about the aged care system may explain why governments have neglected to fix major, obvious problems.

The royal commission’s interim report showed there had been 20 major government inquiries over the past two decades, yet many of the recommendations had been ignored.

Read the papers at www.agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au

Have you ever visited an aged care facility? What was your impression? Do you live in an aged care facility or other care facility? How do you find it? Do you agree with the reasons for perceptions of older people?

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    COMMENTS

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    tisme
    13th Jul 2020
    11:21am
    when are family carers going to be recognised as workers and given equal rights with support workers etc when is the government going to stop using us as slave labour?? i cared for mum /dad/brother till they died , im glad mum didnt end up in aged care i was dreading that having worked in the industry and seen how nothing has changed in 40 years
    Tanker
    13th Jul 2020
    12:08pm
    An obvious issue with aged care facilities is that the vast majority are run for profit. Immediately that strongly suggests that costs are closely monitored to ensure profit is maximised.
    Some age care facilities do deal fairly with their residents but that profit motive is always there and does affect the running of the facility.
    Jennie
    13th Jul 2020
    2:41pm
    I think you will find the various church run aged care facilities are not for profit. So not Estia for example who are into megabucks.
    midnight
    13th Jul 2020
    1:35pm
    I was contemplating this very question today as I was chopping back a section of the forest that my property backs on to in order to be as prepared as I can for the next bush fire season. What am I most afraid of (as a happily fit healthy 70 year old female) as I age? In order, 1. Having to go into an aged care facility, 2. A bush fire wiping me out. 3. Missing with the chain saw. 4. Getting the flu (Covid maybe). That should give some clear perspective about my observations of aged care facilities. And yes, there are some very caring, well meaning people working there.
    Dabbydoos
    13th Jul 2020
    1:57pm
    Aged care facilities are very varied in the facilities and treatment of residents. i would choose euthanism at the facility my daughter works for. Whereas another near me wouldn't be so hard to stomach. I have visited both facilities.
    jan
    13th Jul 2020
    2:20pm
    I would gladly look after my parents for nothing and would not class myself as slave labour. My past relatives looked after each other, there were no hand outs them days. Would you expect hand outs for bringing up your own child. We look after them because we love them. I have entertained in age care facilities some are better then others. Some residents have no family or relatives are to sick to look after them. Some relatives work to pay mortgages. Shame the banks consider husband and wife incomes to apply for a mortgage. My days only the husbands wage was allowed to be assessed for a mortgage. So hard for my daughter to have a child, they have a high mortgage.
    Jennie
    13th Jul 2020
    2:44pm
    Sometimes you are not physically strong enough to care for parents if you have to lift them. A hoist is required... Also some poor souls with dementia become so violent that they do need aged care for your own safety.
    Migrant
    13th Jul 2020
    2:29pm
    It is interesting to compare the systems for aged care (under Federal regulation) and retirement villages (under State legislation).
    Both authorities have tried to arrange their legislation, so that the Residents are protected against unscrupulous operators:
    Aged Care by attempting to fix maximum charges, or by providing MyAgedCare consumer directed benefits so that any unspent amount accrues to the benefit of the Client, and
    The RV Acts by aligning the increase in charges to the increase in the CPI.
    Sadly In both cases the operators have found ways to circumvent the rules.
    To prevent this, it may be necessary to introduce staff from the ATO, who are skilled at administering Acts to prevent taxpayers avoiding their liabilities, and to introduce legislation to close the loopholes. But where does this stand in the list of legislative priorities.?

    Victoria has a Govt enquire into the operation of that States RV Act, but nothing has been heard. Nothing came from the recommendations of the Vic Govt Retirement Housing Enquiry
    , so should we expect the same again ?

    My proposal would be to judge the outcomes against agreed standards, and resident / client satisfaction, and to reward the operator for good performance.
    Migrant
    Jayjay
    14th Jul 2020
    7:45am
    I have worked in an aged care facility that was very well run and also as a community nurse where I have seen many elderly people struggling to stay at home, often cold and lonely. Also quite a few with family in residence supposedly acting as carers but not doing a good or caring job. If I were in that situation I would choose and hope to find a well run aged care facility. Residents rights are higher on the agenda these days and staff are better trained.
    dweezy2176
    14th Jul 2020
    8:40am
    As a Cancer survivor I have learned to take it one day at a time and have adopted the Scarlett O Hara attitude, "I'll think about it tomorrow" .. I'm, now, 72 .. fitter than I was at 25 and as healthy as I've ever been .. eat right (my opinion!), swim 1km 3 x week and on the other 4 days ride a minimum of 50kms on my bike ..manage to spend lotza time with various grandkids (8 to date) get by on the OAP and have little need for lotza money so, all in all, quite happy with my lot in life ... and the future .. I'll think about it tomorrow!
    jan
    14th Jul 2020
    12:02pm
    Yes you are right Jennie it is hard to look after parents who are violent or yourself unwell.
    Fair Dinkum
    15th Jul 2020
    2:59pm
    My mum resonantly passed away and the care she received from Goodwin aged care in Monash was outstanding right up to her day of passing she was one of the first residents into the self care cottages about 20 years ago and moved into full care 3 years ago Except for a short period where they had a corrupt CEO who gave Goodwin a bad name . When this bloke left under suspicious circumstances about 5 years ago Goodwin has returned to the excellent retirement village it once was. Nursing homes often get a bad wrap but would like people to know that they are not all bad. my dealings with Goodwin there staff and present management over the past 20 odd years has been very good of course there are always a few hiccups but overall my ratings for Goodwin would be 5 stars