Not only in SA: Oz has shocking spike in abuse of elderly
One facility shut down every month amid horrific stories of abuse, neglect and mistreatment
Australia will launch a national inquiry into its scandal-plagued aged-care sector, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday, following numerous reports of abuse, neglect and mismanagement.
The announcement comes a year after a state-run dementia nursing home in South Australia state was shut when an investigation revealed horrific mistreatment of elderly residents over 10 years.
Since that scandal the health department has closed almost one aged-care service each month, while a growing number are failing to meet standards, Morrison said.
“Incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused,” he added.
“We must be assured about how widespread these cases are ... there clearly remain areas of concern with regard to the quality and safety of aged care services.”
The inquiry will probe profit and non-profit organisations, and also look at the care given to younger Australians with disabilities living in such facilities.
There has been a 177% leap in the number of aged-care homes where a “serious risk” to residents was identified in the 2017/18 financial year, according to government data released to Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.
The figures also show a 292% increase in the number of facilities that are falling significantly short of government regulations.
The prime minister said the royal commission will be critical in guiding how Australia copes with caring for its growing elderly population.
Demand for services is expected to surge as the “baby boomer” generation born after World War 2 swells the ranks of retirees.
Canberra funding for aged care is already at record levels, reaching A$18.6bn in 2017/18. The government expects it to grow in the next five years by a further A$5bn.
About one in seven Australians is 65 or older, according to 2017 government data, with the proportion of elderly people tipped to reach 22% of the population by 2057.
A damning 146-page report released in February catalogued numerous complaints of abuse and neglect at aged-care facilities.
Some of the worst cases included a 70-year-old attacked and killed by another elderly resident, the use of restraints, overdosing of patients, and the indecent assault of a 99-year-old woman by a male carer.
This month, a carer in Sydney was charged after allegedly assaulting an elderly man by pulling his shirt and hitting him repeatedly with a shoe.