Older Australians still fearful about aged care, surveys find

Dorothy Gale famously said, “There’s no place like home” and, for those heading for – or at least considering – aged care, the words of the central character of The Wizard of Oz ring true.

Following the report tabled in March last year at the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, many of those considering their aged care options have expressed a number of concerns about what care facilities may hold for them, including neglect, abuse and assault.

Not-for-profit advocacy organisation National Seniors Australia (NSA) conducted a survey following the conclusion of the inquiry and has presented the findings in a report titled As close to home as possible: Older Australians’ hopes and fears for residential aged care.

Read: Aged care reform blasted as government tallies the money spent

Just under half (49 per cent) of the 5166 people surveyed said that reports of neglect and abuse had affected their aged care planning or decisions.

The NSA survey asked three questions of the respondents:

  1. Have the reports of neglect and abuse in the aged care system affected your aged care planning or decisions?
  2. In your view, how could residential aged care change to make it a better and more desirable option for those who need it?
  3. What type of guidance, assistance and information do you think should be easily available for people when they need residential aged care?

A discussion paper appearing at the end of this survey identified the need to “shift focus from the processes, systems and organisations providing care to the people who receive care”. A recurring theme in the responses to question two was that “people want to live in a residential facility that is as close to home as possible”.

Read: ADF called in to save aged care sector ‘in crisis’

National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum said older Australians entering residential aged care had a firm idea of what they wanted from the experience, with the word “home” featuring heavily. He said prospective residents wanted “more smaller, community-minded facilities with home-like features”.

“They told us of a desire for more home-style meals, facilities and atmosphere,” he said.

The fear of neglect and abuse was genuine, Prof. McCallum said. “Many of the people who responded are worried they will suffer the same neglect and abuse they have heard and read about in evidence.”

In a separate survey conducted by YourLifeChoices, older people considering the prospect of aged care expressed concern about their ability to afford it, and about the government’s ability to fund home care in a timely matter.

Read: Government announces new in-home aged care program

When asked for a confidence rating on various aspects of aged care in the YourLifeChoices Insights Survey 2021, a significant proportion of the 7000 respondents said they were not at all confident of “obtaining timely government home-care funding” or being able to fund their own aged care.

As well as concerns about financing residential and home aged care, there were concerns about the complexity of the application process.

Referring to the third question in the NSA survey, Prof. McCallum said: “The other sticking point our respondents referred to is the inability to navigate the complex system and find information when choosing an aged care provider.

“A one-stop-shop for information and advice was consistently raised to overcome this.”

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Written by Andrew Gigacz

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