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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Aged Care Fail

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As the pandemic has again highlighted the standard of treatment of our elders, Australia’s aged care industry has urged...

Some of these nursing homes are the concentration camps of capitalism. People who have lost their ‘use’ as productive members of society are then transformed into commodities to be traded.

Our aged care system is broken. We didn’t need a Royal Commission to tell us that many of our old people have been abused by the system that is supposed to care for them. But now we have hard evidence that we are failing our elders. Some of the data that has been released is shocking. One in five residents have experienced sexual or physical abuse.

Let that sink in.

That statistic alone should have authorities swarming the place laying charges. These places that feed our big fat super funds are committing crimes against some of the most vulnerable in our community. Those tasty profits are on the back of the quiet violence of an aged care facility. It’s the stuff that happens when you’re understaffed. When there is no one to report you – because who believes an elderly person? Particularly when they have dementia, or they’re being chemically restrained, or severely disabled, or suffering the effects of malnutrition – speaking out is hard. Who do you tell? Who will believe you? And what if you are unable to speak or have lost cognition?

Privatising aged care has come at a cost: the basic human rights of our elderly.  There are stories of a woman who was found to have maggots in a wound on her foot, an old man who was bashed to death, another who was sedated and tied to his wheelchair and there are many stories of people left, uncared for, like 80 year old Luigi Cantali. Luigi is a blind man with mild dementia who was left in his chair all day in soiled clothing. He went hungry when he couldn’t reach his meal because staff members rarely came to assist. This was captured last year by the ABC on hidden cameras.

In aged care there has been no staff-to-resident ratios, no requirement for a registered nurse to be on duty and no standard minimum training for carers. Registered nurses who work in aged care get paid less than if they worked in a general hospital setting.

To provide good care costs money. It requires training. It requires the current privatised model to be smashed. The business model is not the model for an industry that is supposed to be delivering care. People aren’t supposed to starve to death or die in pain when they’re ‘in care’. But they have been. Because the only way to increase profits is to cut operating costs. That means reducing the number of staff and paying for less skilled staff. It means reducing the quality of food. In this way some places were able to almost double their monthly profits. In one story, Bupa aged care had a name for its cost cutting – Project James. This involved reducing the number of nurses and not replacing staff who phoned in sick.

What have we been doing to our elders? These are people who, in many other cultures, would have been revered and given comfort and humanity in their last years. We have put our elders at risk – for profit. Some of these nursing homes are the concentration camps of capitalism. People who have lost their ‘use’ as productive members of society are then transformed into commodities to be traded. Ever wondered why you don’t like visiting an older person in an aged care facility? Pick up on the sadness much? The pervasive loneliness? The lack of laughter? The sense of doom? It is not every aged care facility certainly, there are some that provide quality care, but they are the exception, because the report reveals one in three people in an aged care facility experience substandard care.

We need to provide greater supports to keep people in their homes, or provide models like in Norway (the best place to be an old person) that has a 1:3 staff to resident ratio in a much smaller ‘home’ like setting. We need to stop institutionalising our elderly. And we need to shame the big business, top end of towners who profiteer at the expense of our elderly. If you are in a super that invests in aged care, maybe it’s time to divest?


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  1. We need politicians who believe the job of government is to provide services that support a good quality of life for all people. I think that’s what Gough WHitlam was doing but Howard slashed regulations about aged care and sent us back to the dark ages. Politicians have the power to make this world a better place or make things worse. Go Mandy. Be the politician that cares about ordinary people. It’s time we had some of that for a change.

  2. We can thank ‘Honest John’ who changed Aged Care into an operation built on profit rather than care. Successive governments have had their chances at fixing affairs. There is no excuse for the neglect which has been known for years. And yet the punters have kept voting for it, so one must question this shock and horror that has recently been expressed.

  3. Mandy is correct in her so human assessment of the aged care system. Some staff members
    are fit to be tried while others are wonders. Staffing is by far too low all due to cuts in order
    to rake in more cash. It’s time the owner-looters were named & shamed. One’s twilight
    years should not be lived out in fear.

  4. A very big issue. Firstly, is the new family dynamics. We are all way to busy to take care of our own ageing parents/ grand parents / aunty or uncle (definitely not). Secondly, there is the money. It is not just the money grabbing aged care sector, but starts with our fear of death and the consequential medical industry. It can start much earlier than the dementia stage when the doctor starts prescribing this drug and that drug to fix our heart, kidneys, muscles. We are hooked on the demi-god doctors to save us. Finally , our insistence on continuing life no matter what. Often postponing it only adds to the misery and heartache. No one gets out alive, accept it. 7 billion of us and increasing, I think that is enough. We need to take a good hard look at death.

  5. You need to be realistic. If you make proper provision for the elderly how could Australia afford to make the generous tax cuts to the wealthy. Let us get our priorities straight. In case you have not worked it out I am being sarcastic by the statement I just made.
    I am not against tax cuts but they should have been to lower income earners who would spend it and would boost economic activity. Job Seeker should be increased this too would boost economic activity.
    I would also favour an inheritance tax with an appropriate tax free thresh hold of about $5million. For example if you had an inheritance tax of say 5% with tax free thresh hold of $5million, anyone receiving an inheritance of up to $5million would pay no tax on this. Someone receiving an inheritance of say $6million would only pay 5% on $1million that is they would pay $50,000 tax. Would $50,000 be such a burden on someone that has just received $6million? I know that people will comment that it cause burdens on some people such as partners that have just inherited the house they live (but this could be taken into account by having rules such as tax need not be payable until asset is sold).

    We need to have a fairer system of tax and of welfare for people that genuinely need it. As an example, during the last federal election someone was telling me how some (supposed) self funded retirees would lose $30,000 if Labor was elected and they made the proposed changes to franking credits. I immediately halted the conversation saying “Stop there. Do not call these people self funded retirees when they are receiving such a large tax payer funded payment” For someone to be receiving a dividend franking tax credit payment of $30,000 they would be receiving at least $70,000 tax free dividends. How many people earn $70,000 after tax. How much is the age pension, how much is job seeker? Then you have people already getting $70,000 tax free receiving an additional $30,000 from the tax payer? Scott Morrison sidesteps discussions on fairness by calling it politics of envy.

    We need to communicate to politicians of both sides that we want a more fairer system where vulnerable are taken care of. There is a fair system of welfare, (I am not suggesting that people should have it easy on other people’s work) but a fairer system.

  6. Unfortunately Australians no longer have a culture that shows respect for the elderly.
    Society has declined due to the digital “revolution”, the promotion of the victim mentality by the left, increasing consumption of drugs ad alcohol.\Greed is also a factor many younger family members wanting their grandparents assets, family home , savings and so forth.
    They cant wait for them to die. Many young people today are useless and evil.


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