23rd Feb 2018
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‘Assault risks higher’ in coastal nursing homes
Author: Olga Galacho
Abuse soars in coastal aged care

The sheer number of older Australians living in nursing homes on the coast means they are more likely to be assaulted than those living elsewhere, according to the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA).

In an exclusive interview with YourLifeChoices, CPSA said because coastal regions tended to have more aged care places and the sector was not subjected to staffing ratios, residents there were more vulnerable to abuse from carers.

“Last year, CPSA succeeded in its long-running Freedom of Information (FoI) campaign to obtain statistics from the federal Department of Health showing the incidence of abuse in Gold Coast homes,” said Paul Versteege, the policy coordinator at the pensioner advocacy group.

“What we discovered was horrifying … the incidence of physical and sexual assault on elderly residents is 70 per cent higher than the national average if they live on the Gold Coast.”

He said he would not be surprised if similar statistics applied to Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, NSW coastal cities and southern Western Australia because those areas had higher numbers of nursing homes.

CPSA will continue to apply for region-by-region data using FoI in a bid to map out the incidence of elder abuse in all areas of Australia.

Mr Versteege has long accused governments of trying to cover up the extent of assault in nursing homes, even though statistics are published each year.

“We don’t know where these assaults are happening because of a lack of transparency and the Government’s attempts to underplay them by saying it only happens to a small number of residents, like one per cent,” he said.

It was probably the tip of the iceberg as the number of unreported cases could well be many multiples more, he said.

More concerning is that in proportion to the number of people in aged care, the rate of assaults has more than doubled since 2008.

In the 2016-2017 year, there were 239,370 people in nursing homes and 2853 assaults were reported to the Health Department. That is a rate of 1.2 per cent of the total in care. In 2008-2009, among 228,030 aged care residents, just 1411 cases were reported, or 0.5 per cent.

YourLifeChoices has analysed the rate of increase, as opposed to the rise in the whole numbers of assaults, and found that every two years, the rate has jumped about 0.2 per cent. Based on historical records, it can be reasonably assumed that about 10,000 new aged-care places are added each year. Extrapolating from that, in six years from now, there will be about 300,000 people in residential care and the rate of abused elderly Australians could be roughly 2 per cent. That would translate into the potential assault of 6000 elderly Australians  each year.

Mr Versteege said it was conceivable that if nothing changed in the sector, we would see increasingly alarming rates of elder abuse.

“We have been calling for staff-to-patient ratios to be mandated, as they are in hospitals, child care centres and schools. Without sensible ratios, organisations looking to cut costs will continue to overburden staff.

“We understand it must be frustrating when you are overworked to be dealing with a difficult patient who has advanced dementia,” he said. “These staff work under a lot of pressure and sometimes they crack.

“But the Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, has to this day avoided imposing staff ratios in the sector.

“There is no doubt that a correlation exists between the soaring assault figures and the increasing number of people with dementia needing care. To fix this, we need more care staff and better training so they can understand how to handle these difficult patients, because the status quo is totally unacceptable,” Mr Versteege said.

Opinion: Stop making elderly wait to feel safe

The growing incidence of assaults in nursing homes is alarming. Yet the Federal Government appears to have underplayed the extent of the harrowing experiences of many vulnerable Australians in a sector it subsidises.

Who is it protecting? The service providers, many of which are private and profitable companies? Did the Government become so confused it put the needs of corporates above those of vulnerable Australians who elected it? How could it have ever thought it was okay not to act more decisively when thousands of elderly people are abused or raped by their carers?

Earlier this month, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt’s hand was forced and he shut down the watchdog that was supposed to be guarding the rights of elderly Australians.

The move was precipitated by a review of how the aged care sector is audited, which concluded that the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency could not be trusted to do its job.

The agency’s replacement will be tasked with carrying out recommendations of former ACT Chief Minister Kate Carnell and healthcare specialist Professor Ron Paterson, who conducted the review.

On the topic of protecting aged care residents, the review’s report said: “Evidence to this Review and previous inquiries suggests that the current regulatory environment does not adequately protect the residents of aged care homes from abuse and neglect. The accreditation system does not appear to be sufficiently robust, and the requirement for compulsory reporting is restrictive and of limited value in improving the safety of residents.”

Let’s hope Minister Wyatt wastes no time in implementing reforms, not only to the aged care watchdog, but also to the entire sector. Because, if you are a very elderly and vulnerable person in the care of someone under enormous pressure, you won’t want to wait too long for things to improve so you can feel safe again.

Update: 

In response to an inquiry from YourLifeChoices, a Department of Health spokesperson said: "The Turnbull Government accepts the broad direction of the Carnell-Paterson Review and is considering the remaining recommendations, including the establishment of an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to centralise accreditation, compliance and complaints handling. This would include the functions currently undertaken by the Quality Agency."

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    COMMENTS

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    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    10:51am
    The Courier Mail did an investigation and found that "dozens of aged-care executives are moonlighting as inspectors for the federal aged-care watchdog".
    Apparently there are no teeth in the federal organisation, their rules state that assessors must disclose any conflict of interest but the Quality Care Agency is refusing to disclose how many of its assessors work in aged-care homes. Comes down to money again I suppose as, according to the Courier Mail, a three day inspection pays between $2330 and $2890.
    Rosret
    26th Feb 2018
    11:07am
    Any facility can mask poor behaviour for a few days.
    It is difficult to discriminate between the elderly person who is very difficult to manage and the cruel aspect in the nursing fraternity.
    Unfortunately these stats don't include sedating patients for peace and quiet.
    More cameras and less privacy. It will stop theft and abuse. If it was my family I would have secret cameras in their rooms.

    26th Feb 2018
    11:03am
    I can tell you as a former manager of an aged care facility, that so called abuse is a two way street in some aged care facilities - understandably some residents lash out at staff (for a variety of reasons). Elder abuse cannot be condoned under any circumstances, but spare a thought for staff, who, not highly paid, do have to put up with some very poor behavior at times - and some are injured as a result. There is the conundrum - how as an employer can you provide a safe work environment, when you have in place, frustrated, partially demented, and bewildered residents?
    Rosret
    26th Feb 2018
    11:10am
    I think its when you start to see trends. More medically assisted deaths, more abuse incidences, more unhappy or fearful residents etc.
    The best scenario - don't abandon your elderly family members once they are placed in care.
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    1:36pm
    Right you are, Big Al - those little old ladies are vicious.... and if a staff member can't take a little tongue-lashing, they're in the wrong job. Surely facilities have graded classifications of those reasonably able to keep straight and level, those with occasional forays into The Outer Limits, and those who are 'habitiual' Outer Limiters... and can organise staff to suit.

    Hang your head as a past manager for underpaid staff and poor worker to inmate (sic) ratio, Big Al.... you are and have been part of the problem. Checking on job vacancies just now, $32 an hour/$60-$70k a year plus o/t etc? Not that underpaid ... but then I may be out of touch with dollars these days.

    That's just me being nice.... say - what were your thoughts on chopping shop assistants and club workers penalty rates - they're on about $22 an hour.....
    Big Kev
    28th Feb 2018
    11:55am
    Big Al there are some simple solutions to overcome issues that you raise. Facilities need to be designed for dementia with specialist units that provide diversionary activities such as sensory gardens, lack of deadmend corridors, furniture that relates to the peeiod of life most residents are in existwnce. There also needs to be sufficient staff ratios, properly scheduled to deal with behaviours like sundowning. Thwwre needs to be dedicate diversional therapists with experience and training in dementia who can use techniques like Snoozelan therapy. Finally there needs to be involvement of family to create things like music therapy from the timeweiod of the persons ageingg backwards and perhaps a life book with lots of photos from that time period. The Government created Dementia Behavious Management Advisory Services in eaxh State . People in aged care or at home should use the wealth of ideas and education those services provide.
    Charlie
    26th Feb 2018
    11:04am
    It's not a good outlook on the eve of governments supporting assisted dying laws, as they have done in Victoria already.
    These laws need a higher level of control and supervision than what is showing up in the community lately.
    Rosret
    26th Feb 2018
    11:16am
    Victoria's laws are only for the sound of mind. I wondered if NSW is pulling the plug on the infirmed all over State at the moment. Maybe its just the people I happen to know.
    I am not necessarily saying its wrong - just a noticeable trend.
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    1:40pm
    They already booted them out of psych institutions, and thus their mortality rate has risen.... sort of a de facto gas chamber... put 'em on the streets or in subsidised flats amongst housos, and watch them curl up the toes, take the pills out option, organise a 'death by cop', or end up in prison.

    You've state governments to thank for that primarily, with lust for money out of good position property.

    Bottom liners in more ways than one and undeserving of any title.
    Charlie
    26th Feb 2018
    7:54pm
    I am always concerned there will be a difference in the way the courts and people in general, start to think about murder...

    Whether it will become less of a crime to bump off an older person because there is less lifetime lost...

    On the other hand I wouldn't like to be left somewhere in pain,misery and filth when my life could be simply ended.
    Charlie
    26th Feb 2018
    7:54pm
    I am always concerned there will be a difference in the way the courts and people in general, start to think about murder...

    Whether it will become less of a crime to bump off an older person because there is less lifetime lost...

    On the other hand I wouldn't like to be left somewhere in pain,misery and filth when my life could be simply ended.
    Charlie
    26th Feb 2018
    7:55pm
    I didn't press the button twice I didn't
    patti
    26th Feb 2018
    11:33am
    If a person steals from an employer they face heavier penalties than theft in the community. (Larceny as Servant) Assaulting a vulnerable person in care is much worse, and deserves prosecution to the full extent of the law. I have told my family and friends I never wish to go to a nursing home. I will organise my own escape before it gets to that point
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    1:40pm
    Theft/abuse as a servant - double penalty...
    Rosret
    27th Feb 2018
    8:20am
    The trouble with articles like this it does leave those of us in the waiting line fearful of what will become of us.
    Some good news out of retirement villages would be nice. - Not from advertisers. My grandmother thrived in her day in a retirement home.
    She had friends, a place she could manage, a short walk to the train and shops, a library and a communal dining room if she needed it etc etc. She even had more money in her pocket as her aging home was becoming a money pit.
    I see some beautiful places advertised on TV however I think the price tag would probably negate the children's inheritance.
    TREBOR
    27th Feb 2018
    1:33pm
    It sounds like she was one of the more ambulatory people there, Ros - those who are bed-bound or even house-bound probably tend to be more hard to handle and have more to deal with.

    To an extent I can understand the frustrations of staff, but they did sign up for it with their eyes open, and theft and such are definitely beyond the pale.
    Old Man
    26th Feb 2018
    11:44am
    Staffing of child care facilities was changed, including a university qualified educator, and all that resulted was an increase in the fee structure to pay for the extra staff. There are still problems within the child care industry. Government intervention in these matters should not include mandatory staffing levels at the facilities but should include extra staffing at the agencies responsible for the oversight of the facilities. Why should those who use these facilities be lumbered with the extra costs when the government should be spending more in administration.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    12:28pm
    Why a childcare centre would need a qualified educator is beyond me? Jobs for those university educated people who can't get jobs?
    KSS
    26th Feb 2018
    12:43pm
    Actually most childcare staff would have a Certificate III or IV. The new regulations required that the centre have a specified number of Diploma educated staff. And there is a difference between childcare and early childhood learning. For early childhood learning you do need degree holders much like being a primary school teacher does. But for those working with the very young say up to 4 in childcare and being more akin to babysitting, then the lower qualifications is all that is required.

    As far as aged care goes, the vast majority of aged care workers are not clinical staff at all. They too would be Certificate III holders with some at the Certificate IV level. These workers far outnumber clinical staff (nurses for example) in almost every situation.
    Old Man
    26th Feb 2018
    12:56pm
    Thanks KSS, the bit I don't really understand is why a child of pre-school age should be included in a program of "childhood learning". What happens to all of those children subject to "childhood learning" when they join up with those whose parent(s) stayed home with them when both streams start Kindergarten? Do they get a different treatment? Surely childcare centres are most helpful in teaching children to relate to others, not to have them sit and learn the three "R's".
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    6:25pm
    Kids under school age should be kids not be subjected to moulding to become slaves to industry.
    TREBOR
    28th Feb 2018
    11:13am
    You old socialist you....
    Hairy
    26th Feb 2018
    12:02pm
    Must be the annual time to bring up about elderly abuse. Just like they do with fuel power water rates pensions . Just tell me who in this bastard goverment or any other goverment give a rats arse about any of these subjects.corporate end of town ,bowing a scraping to any country that’s wants to buy Australia .WGAF what the voters want.until we all say at the ballot box differently nothing will change except the insane amount of money these fools get for ZERO
    Old Man
    26th Feb 2018
    12:57pm
    A most cynical response Hairy but one with which I agree wholeheartedly. We, the voters, get thought of about three months before an election, not before.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    2:34pm
    I don’t think it’s even that long, Old Man.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    12:18pm
    Those numbers are very low and how many are the result of residents being constrained for assaulting staff? It is terrible what some staff in these homes have to put up with. A dementia patient gets bored and paints his room with the contents of their nappy. They then lash out and wont let anyone touch it.
    Tricky
    26th Feb 2018
    12:26pm
    Perhaps consideration could be given to the amount of elder abuse inflicted upon pensioners and self funded retirees by Federal and State Politicians and staff continually. Through causing stress, anxiety and uncertainty.
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    1:28pm
    Well - not amazing the abuse etc in nursing homes would be higher where there are more nursing homes and residents.

    What amazes me is that the industry seems to be be relatively under-regulated and geared to earning top dollar rather than providing a value for dollar service.

    Frankly, I for one am growing tired of this 'profit first' nonsense so actively promoted by our 'governments' here today of all stamps.

    Time for a change - the bloody lot of them.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    1:43pm
    Many residents are looked after too well and they actually gain too much weight and have to be put on diets.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    2:39pm
    For heaven’s sake, OG, they put on weight because of low quality food and inactivity. There is nothing to exercise their brains or bodies.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    2:57pm
    Food is better than they had at home and lots of exercise as they are always doing something.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    3:57pm
    That is just not true, OG. Slick, smug remarks like yours are the reason there is so much criminal negligence in care homes. The amount spent on food per resident fell from $6.34 to $6.08 per day between July 2014 and June 2016, according to a study published in the Nutrition and Dietetics journal in July. Quality food cannot be supplied for that amount, and please don't argue with me, I worked in a commercial kitchen for ten years, I know how much food costs.
    And as for plenty for residents to do, it would be a good idea for you to do a bit of research before you posted. Try Oakden nursing home, BUPA nursing home neglect and go on from there.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    4:42pm
    Well the nursing home I have seen they have provided breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and a late night snack. That is more than people would eat outside the nursing home.

    Stop reading that published rubbish.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    5:09pm
    Seeing one nursing home doesn't make you an expert on all the rest, OG.
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    6:17pm
    I have been in about a dozen of them now and haven't seen an unhappy resident.
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    8:26pm
    Ah - your secret's out... your also blind... got that special braille keyboard....

    Happy as Old Larry are they? Stockholm Syndrome.......
    KB
    26th Feb 2018
    2:38pm
    Maybe there needs to be psychological testing for people who want to work in age care homes. Also better pay might diffuse the stress of nurses working with the elderly and frail.
    Knows-a-lot
    26th Feb 2018
    2:51pm
    The whole problem is driven by hypercapitalism. Because these facilities are 'for profit', there aren't anywhere near enough carers (nurses, assistants) and they're paid peanuts. The sooner the government takes over the sector, the better.
    KEVINJ
    26th Feb 2018
    3:11pm
    In AUS, we Live Under a VERY CORRUPT,- N.S.W GOV-T.. Same, re- VERY CORRUPT, - FED use-less, NOW deeply DespiseD,- F E D S.. RE- ELDERLY ABUSE, let's POST ALL ovr AUS,the REFS to killer,"D R" HARRY BAILEY, WHO, a Lunatic PhsychiatrsT, MURDERED 24, in 'CHELMs Ford HOSP, Roseville, SYDney, over 16 YRS, 1,962--late 1,970's, b4, CORRUPT N.S.W GOV-T finally, put a Stop On It, AFT, MANY FAM membs, complaing abt, Relatives Dying IN Their deep Sleep, W H O, LUNATIC "LICensed", PSYCHIATRIST BAILEY' - MURDERED. NEVER, EVER TRUST, ANY,- PSYCHIATRIST, - NOR,- **"MEDICO- LEGAL" DR S, bec **THEY, can, Get Away with, ALTERING, INTER-VIEWS.. CORRUPT FED &, STATE AUS GOV-T S must, Plaster "ALL OVER" T.V -&, RADIO, clients Referred T O, ABOVE "are TO have OnlY,- VIDEO- RecorDED", Inter-views &, to REPORT, ANY, D R(S) found, trying To do, InterViews MINUS VIDEO, -WHERE, suspected Of, CORRUPT.. PROTECT IN-nnocent VICTIMS, from These "PPL", OR- U mayBe, ExtremeLY Sorry. This AUTHOR IS VICTIM, Of 3 CORRUPT SYDNEY D RS,- & NSW MED BOARD &- "Health CARE Complaints Commiss", BOTH, protected These 3, SCOUNDRELS, - WHO DESTROYED, my In-nocent LIFE.. IT"s ALL "ON--LINE". TO, CORRUPT GOV-T &, the CORRUPT GOV-T DEPT=S, got AWAY, -with CORRUPTION, towards ME, incl, a Former, ( Very SERIOUS ALCOHOLIC) IndustriaL Relations COMMISSIONER. - SO- WHO, Has a STORY, To Beat, Mine >> PLS, POST MANY, MANY, BEC, - AUS GOV-TS, now have, NO, CREDENCE - but, They Will Continue, To- RIP US, OFF.. TIME For another ( 3rd) Walk, across SYDNEY HARB BRIDGE & CAMPING, On ( I T ).
    AutumnOz
    26th Feb 2018
    4:42pm
    This is scary KevinJ, I hadn't heard about the Chelmsford Hospital deaths earlier.
    We all need to be on guard and definitely report any out of the ordinary happenings we see in Hospitals, Nursing Homes and elderly hostels. There doesn't seem to be anyone to report these abuses to.
    I'm sorry to hear you have suffered under bad management of you case and hope you regain some of your health.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    5:16pm
    There isn't anyone to complain to, AutumnOz, because there are lazy, complacent people like OG who ignore reports like Chelmsford and the rest and call them rubbish. It's too much trouble to investigate lack of care so everything in nursing homes is wonderful and directed to the comfort and happiness of residents. Just like the government watchdogs really.
    TREBOR
    28th Feb 2018
    11:15am
    I'd like to see your story online Kevin J.
    Triss
    26th Feb 2018
    5:21pm
    What is the matter with the Gold Coast? If there's a conman scamming the elderly he lives on the Gold Coast. If the police raid houses manufacturing drugs they're on the Gold Coast. Stabbings, shootings, domestic violence ending in death it's on the Gold Coast. And now "the incidence of physical and sexual assault on elderly residents is 70 per cent higher than the national average if they live on the Gold Coast.”
    Old Geezer
    26th Feb 2018
    6:20pm
    It is not a place I go to unless I have some business to attend to in that area. It is busier than Sydney with even worse drivers than Sydney.
    TREBOR
    26th Feb 2018
    8:29pm
    Been there - didn't like it when I was at Canungra in 1967 - don't like it now. It's a triumph of advertising built on sand and bulldust out of a mosquito laden swamp. Hasn't even got sany decent surf... just rubbish over sandbars.

    Best waves I saw were off the breakwall out of Southport, and you're not allowed there.
    MICK
    27th Feb 2018
    2:05am
    Amazing. So the law does not apply to Australians in Aged Care? And if the law is going to be selective then why bother to have laws in the first place.
    As I and others have said on a number occasions 'avoid the Healthcare Industry'. Being attacked by those who are paid to look after people is yet another nail in the coffin of the current government which has demonstrated time and time again that it is controlled by business interests where the law and rights of average people means nothing and is treated as collateral damage and to be ignored. This appears to be this great nation has been taken by the top end of town. Disgraceful.

    Maybe individuals need to band together, rent group homes, and care for themselves along with some family help. The retirement industry has become a plaything and money spinner for business interests and should be avoided. I'll be putting my money where my mouth is when the time comes.
    Rosret
    27th Feb 2018
    8:28am
    I think it does MICK they just need proof and a means to get the information out there.
    You can buy specs with inbuilt video camera and teddy bears with seeing eyes. Its time to put surveillance cameras in these places. Especially in places where the elderly cannot speak for themselves.

    With your last comment. A nurse said if you had 5 retirement homes and a nurses cottage you could provide the same care at the same cost as the large institutions. It was something she was thinking of doing.
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