At a life stage of increasing frailty and dependence, older adults deserve to be treated with care and respect. A hallmark of a humane society.
However, a recent enquiry into the Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Facility highlighted continued gaps in the quality of aged care.
An independent report exposed inadequate resources, medication overdosing, inappropriate restraining and a toxic culture – finally leading to its closure in 2017 following complaints extending as far back as 2007.
The report led to a Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes, now completed. It’s been a long time coming, but the government has announced a new national Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in an effort to seal the gaps.
Overview of the new commission
Through the new commission, to be implemented on 1 January 2019, the government promises to “ensure Australians in the aged care system are better cared for, through raising the quality benchmarks that homes must meet.”
It aims to provide an independent body to guarantee quality standards of care are upheld. “The unified new Commission will be a responsive, one-stop shop to prevent failures, highlight quality concerns and have them quickly rectified,” says Ken Wyatt, Minister for Aged Care.
Mr Wyatt acknowledges that most facilities provide quality care, but says, “We must ensure that disasters like Oakden are never repeated.”
This includes the development of a Serious Incident Response Scheme for reporting and investigating complaints regarding aged care.
The new commission will merge departments regulating aged care and dealing with compliance and complaints to ensure that risks and substandard care are identified and rectified faster. Older Australians and their families will have one point of contact for getting help with poor quality care.
This extends recent plans to undertake impromptu audits in all residential aged care facilities. A new performance rating will be introduced to compare sites with quality standards, and consumers will be able to access a comparison tool on the My Aged Care website.
Nutrition in aged care
This welcome reform is a step forward in the gradual rehabilitation of aged and mental health care services.
As Mr Wyatt said in a press release, “Our senior Australians have built the nation that we enjoy today. They have rightly earned the respect of the community and must be cared for with the dignity they deserve.”
This includes food quality – critical in aging to prevent risk of malnutrition, sarcopenia, falls, wound healing, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Not to mention enhanced quality of life through improved wellbeing and enjoying good food.
Currently, despite growing attempts by isolated individuals and organisations to address this issue, aged care has no mandatory meal and nutrition standards – which are needed to ensure any systemic change.
Malnutrition is already rife in residential care. Hopefully it won’t take so long to address that issue as it has to enforce quality standards for safety and clinical care.