Why aged care is a dirty word

Aged care is a dirty word for many older Australians, with 25 per cent saying they’d rather take their chances at being fully independent than worry about any aged care services.

It’s no secret that the royal commission into aged care will uncover damaging evidence against the sector.

The medical peak body is fully aware that the health and aged care system is woefully under resourced and that aged care providers often don’t meet minimum standards.

“Many aged care providers commonly do not meet the Clinical Care Accreditation Standard, likely due to a shortage of trained, experienced and appropriate staff and a lack of resources,” said Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone.

“There are not enough registered nurses with aged care experience to provide the clinical governance, oversight and leadership required in these facilities, leading to poor clinical care, inadequate communication and a lack of knowledge about individual residents.”

The Government plans to pour billions into home care and aged care facilities. However, reports from those waiting endlessly for care packages and damning accounts of mistreatment in nursing homes have left an already struggling industry battered and bruised.

Little wonder then that older Australians are putting the notion of aged care out of their minds until it is absolutely necessary.

Results of the YourLifeChoices Friday Flash Poll: Solving the aged care mystery revealed the attitudes of older Australians towards aged care. While some results were expected, such as preferred methods of aged care, others were quite surprising and some downright shocking.

The bulk of respondents were aged between 60 and 70 (85 per cent) and were 60 per cent women to 40 per cent men.

Almost half of those who responded were receiving the Age Pension, 32 per cent were self-funded retirees and 16 per cent were employed either full or part time.

While the sector’s reputation is surely at an all-time low, 68 per cent still agree that they should be thinking about aged care.

Yet a paltry 13 per cent have a financial plan to fund this stage of retirement.

Of the remaining 87 per cent who don’t have a plan, 50 per cent say they intend to and 37 per cent say that have no intention of financially planning for aged care.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents who receive an Age Pension say they cannot afford aged care, and a large number still plan to remain independent throughout retirement.

Among reasons given for not having an aged care financial plan, 18 per cent said they couldn’t afford it, eight per cent said they would prefer to live in the moment, another eight per cent said they would rather leave their money as an inheritance, 14 per cent said they don’t understand the system, another 14 per cent said they didn’t want to think about it and six per cent said the Government should pay for it.

Most surprising was that 25 per cent said they plan to be fully independent throughout their retirement. This could be because the current state of aged care has many older Australians worried about their later years, people are actually able to be more independent or they are misguided and, perhaps, a little optimistic.

Just one per cent said they don’t care about aged care.

As expected, older Australians would prefer to age in place, with 54 per cent saying they’d prefer home care and 22 per cent saying they aim to be fully independent until they die. Around 16 per cent said they would move into a retirement village with aged care options, but a paltry two per cent said they’d trust an aged care facility enough to live out their final days in one.

The remaining five per cent had no idea which type of aged care they’d prefer.

Seven per cent said they’d rely on family for care, while 58 per cent said they would not and 36 per cent said they may partly need help from loved ones.

Around seven in 10 believe aged care advice should be paid for by the Government.

While the Federal Government’s My Aged Care website does an admirable job of demystifying the services, it would seem many older Australians do not know of its existence. Almost half of all respondents said they had no idea about government-subsidised aged care options.

As far as how many years they could expect in aged care, almost one in five said they would need six years or more, with a further 58 per cent having no idea how long they’d need.

When we asked why aged care is a dirty word, 26 per cent said it was because of negative reports from institutions and 19 per cent said negative media coverage was to blame. A quarter of respondents said it was just too expensive and 23 per cent said either themselves, family or friends had a bad experience.

A big cause for concern emerged from commentators who said they would never choose aged care. While some comments explaining why they would eschew aged care, such as the loss of independence and inability to trust those running the facilities, many Australians actually view the term itself as demeaning. Others went as far as preferring to take their lives rather than enter aged care.

“I intend to commit suicide if I need aged care – it’s demeaning,” said one member.

While another said: “I intend to euthanise myself so will have no need for aged care. Medically assisted euthanasia is not legal and if it were there would be too many restrictions!”

These were but two responses of many sharing similar sentiments.

Many have welcomed the Government’s aged care royal commission, but none more so than the older Australians who’ll need it most in the coming years.

Fortunately, the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, has acknowledged their concerns.

“We know that there are instances of sub-standard care that need a fair, independent and thorough assessment – to honour and support every family that has engaged and trusted aged care services across our nation,” Mr Wyatt said.

He certainly has his work cut out for him.

Do you think you’ll need aged care or are you ignoring the need? Do you share the same sentiments as those quoted?

Related articles:
Aged care home budget boost
Aged care centres dumping patients
Aged care needs budget support

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


Federal Budget 2018: Money to keep Aussies in the home longer

Government aims to keep older Australians connected to their communities.

The aged care centres putting profits before patients

Aged care companies are accused of dumping residents in emergency departments.

Federal Budget 2018: Stronger support for aged care needed

Aged care requires urgent funding support in the 2018-19 Federal Budget.