Maggots amid 274,409 cases of horrific aged care neglect
THE country's shameful aged care system "diminishes Australia as a nation" and is leaving our elderly to be treated cruelly, a damning Royal Commission interim report into the sector says.
The long-awaited draft report, entitled "Neglect", condemns the horrifying, shocking and cruel system, with commissioners calling for urgent resources to allow older Australians to live in their homes while also tackling the liberal use of chemical restraints in nursing homes.
"It is a shocking tale of neglect," commissioners Richard Tracey - who died earlier this month - and Lynelle Briggs wrote in the three-volume report published yesterday.
"The neglect that we have found … is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.
"This cruel and harmful system must be changed.
"We owe it to our parents, our grandparents, our partners, our friends. We owe it to strangers. We owe it to future generations."
The report listed a harrowing 4013 notifications of alleged or suspected physical and or sexual assaults, as well as rampant malnutrition, homes rife with infections and chemical restraints.
The homes themselves "self-reported 274,409 instances of substandard care'' over a five-year period.
"We have seen images of people with maggots feeding in open sores and we have seen video and photographic evidence of outright abuse," the report states.
"We have found that the aged care system fails to meet the needs of our older, often very vulnerable, citizens.
"It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care for older people. It is unkind and uncaring."
Its authors stated that "The Australian Department of Health told the Royal Commission that 'based on the evidence and information available to the Department … serious instances of substandard care do not appear to be widespread or frequent'.
"We beg to differ."
"A little over 1000 providers responded to our Service Provider Survey. They self-reported 274,409 instances of substandard care over the five-year period to June 2018.
"It is clearly unacceptable for there to be more people waiting for Home Care Packages than are receiving them.
"It is unsafe. It is neglect.
"This situation has contributed to unnecessary and premature deaths; has driven some people into residential aged care (albeit at a slower rate than before); and has placed terrible pressure on informal carers."
The Commissioners condemned restrictive practises in Australia as able to "violate the fundamental rights of older Australians" adding that physical restraints can cause premature death as well as serious physical and psychological consequences, such as falls and cognitive decline.
The commission uncovered a litany of inadequate prevention and management of wounds, sometimes leading to septicaemia and death.
It also found shockingly poor continence management with many aged care residences failing to encourage toilet use or strictly rationing continence pads, often leaving distressed residents sitting or lying in their own waste.
Homes reported a high incidence of assaults by staff on residents and by residents on other residents and on staff.
It also logged common use of physical restraint on residents to make them easier to manage and widespread overprescribing, often without clear consent, of drugs which sedate residents, rendering them drowsy and unresponsive to visiting family.
"It is shameful that such a list can be produced in 21st century Australia," the report states. "At the heart of these problems lies the fundamental fact that our aged care system essentially depersonalises older people.
"The Australian aged care system is failing and needs fundamental reform."
Commissioners logged 274,409 instances of substandard care over the five-year period to June 2018 across Australia, including almost 112,000 occasions of substandard clinical care and close to 69,000 occasions of substandard medication management.
For pensioner Terry Reeves, 72, all it took was 10 weeks at Garden View Nursing home in Merrylands for him to lose 10kg and the ability to walk or talk, his family claims. His case was just one of dozens of shocking examples of neglect uncovered by the Commission in harrowing hearings over nine months.
Mr Reeves' daughter Michelle McCulla said her father's appalling treatment - where he was drugged up with antipsychotic drug risperidone and physically strapped to a chair with a lap belt for 14 hours - should constitute elder abuse. The report described his treatment as a "major'' issue.