Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Aged Care: room for improvement?

Continuing on with difficult subjects as we progress towards Christmas: this time it's the subject of those infirm, aged people who will spend their Festive season in Nursing Home facilities across the world.

For over three decades I visited patients in Aged Care facilities and have witnessed a massive increase in the quality of care provided during that period of time. My first visits were to what were old houses where the bedrooms contained three or four frail aged who often spent the majority of their time in bed, and the stench of urine pervaded the whole "institution". It was not unusual for "restraints" to be used on more difficult patients, which meant that they were literally tied to their chairs; and there was always at least one patient who would call out a garbled cry with the regularity of a metronome, which in retrospect was probably "help"! Remember, this was at a time when the Berlin wall was still standing, before computers were on every desk, and the only phones were fixed to a wall!

Today in Australia, the modern aged care facility is a bright "village" type arrangement with high care units to look after the most frail residents. Each facility has to undergo regular accreditation and the standards that I observed were of the highest order. But all is not sweetness and light for the aged around the world. In 2008 the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance reported that there were 3947 cases probed nationally between July to December 31 2007, and this included cases of serious physical assault, medical mismanagement and failed personal care. Recently in NSW, a fire was started in a Nursing Home and lives were lost as the result of suspect arson - a man has been charged with the offense and is awaiting trial.

In the US, Amber Paley runs a website called Nursing Home Abuse which focuses on the plight of those aged relatives of ours who may be at risk, and gives practical advice on how to ensure that your family member who is no longer able to defend themselves, is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. As well as recording the blight of abuses that she has documented, there is also valuable educational and preventative advice on how to best protect your relatives. The Australian Government Department of Health and Aging also has a useful webpage to help those who suspect that abuse may be occurring.

It is sad that abuse occurs, but the good news is that there are 99 good people in the Aged Care business for every one that inappropriately manages their patients under their care. In fact, those who do work with the frail, the deaf, the incontinent and the demented deserve our enormous thanks and respect for what they do and how they do it. Lets give them a present this Christmas when we visit our older relatives, and give them our affirmation and thanks for sharing the final part of so many peoples final journey, with professionalism and grace.

Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.


Toyin O. said...

so gladd to hear about this agency that is helping old people. I have been looking to volunteer in nursing home just to be able to cheer some of these old folks up. I will have to look into this Christmas.

Esther said...

Great post. We also work in the aged care sector, albeit in NZ, and we too feel that the work that is delivered by the majority of caregivers, nurses, cooks, cleaners volunteers and nameless others deserves recognition and reward. I know that all of those in Aged Care in NZ shared your nation's sorrow with the recent tragedy.
You can see our blog at:

Mariodacatsmom said...

Another excellent, very helpful post. My husband and I will be ones who enter Assisted Living some time in the near future. I do feel the majority of staff in aged care facilities do a fantastic job and do really care for their patients. It's very hard, demanding, physical work, and they are not given enough credit for what they do. Quite often the pay is low also. I'm so happy I found your blog.

Sophie Stephens said...

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