There is consensus among experts and stakeholders that Australia’s aged care sector is in crisis. Change is desperately needed, making my Aged Care Policy extremely important.

 

What does my Aged Care Policy include?

While the pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted many aged care system failures, these failures predate COVID-19. Beginning with the wholesale deregulation and privatisation of the sector by the Howard Government, and continued neglect by Governments on both sides, the catastrophic deterioration of aged care standards demands immediate, urgent reform.

If elected, I will seek the reintroduction of rules and conditions that preserve the dignity and quality of life of our elders and ensure that aged care workers are afforded the training, support, and remuneration necessary to deliver world’s best-practice care.

I will shift the focus from cheap headlines about how much money is being spent and instead shift the focus to the unmet need in the community.

As a community backed independent, I acknowledge the importance of this issue to the constituents of Goldstein. Numerous Goldstein residents have shared their stories of profound trauma associated with attempting to navigate the complex, underfunded, and thoroughly distorted market that is Australian aged care.

Too many Goldstein residents have expressed terror at having to put a loved one into aged care or having to go into it themselves. Aged care should not inspire fear.

The expectation that our society’s most vulnerable members are able to be active consumers in such a free market, lays bare the irrationality of the current system. Indeed, it foreshadows the inevitability of market failure. As a result, elder dignity has been compromised, while unconscionable waste and abuses of taxpayer money run rampant.

Ultimately, our current system is unnecessarily costly. Inadequate elder care results in avoidable hospitalisations. Medication errors, falls, and other accidents are far too frequent in our overburdened and understaffed aged care residential facilities.

In 2021, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety delivered 148 recommendations for urgent reform of the sector. These recommendations, together with expert advice from stakeholders, form the framework for the reforms I will demand if elected.

If elected, I will fight for the following:

Legislative Change

  • Rewrite the Aged Care Act of 1997 – as promised, but not delivered by, the current Liberal-National Government – from a human rights perspective, undoing the ‘marketisation’ of aged care, ushered in by John Howard
  • Urgently create accountability in a deregulated system to no longer reward profiteering and instead to prioritise transparency for all key stakeholders
  • Establish an independent Aged Care Commission that will implement these regulations and reforms, enforced by a regulatory framework with teeth
  • Ensure, via this framework, that funding is tied to outcomes that materially improve the quality of life for our elders; regardless of financial situation or personal circumstances.
  • Harmonise disability support with aged care support.
    – Currently, non-elder disabled people have access to far better funding. Human life should not be devalued simply by virtue of age.

Removal of Red tape

  • Remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers that currently render aged care and retirement living incredibly complex to navigate; a traumatic experience for not only older people but families seeking care for their loved ones.
  • Streamline paperwork for aged care providers who are so overburdened with process that they have to divert precious resources away from caring roles
  • Modernise and streamline communications methods and channels within the aged care bureaucracy.

Quality of Care

  • Support our elders in their choices of care, be it ageing at home, assisted independent living, retirement living, or residential aged care.
  • Adequately fund carefully regulated home care programs which enhance mobility and independence, allowing people the dignity of remaining in their own homes for as long as possible, without being plagued by extensive wait times for receiving home care packages
  • Ensure the delivery of integrated care and remove unnecessary fragmentation and care silos; ensuring that GPs and other primary care services, as well as hospital services, are working with aged care providers to provide safe and coordinated transfer and discharge processes, along with the funding and services needed to rebuild independence and avoid hospitalisation.
  • Implement high-quality, evidence-based care for elders with dementia
  • Provide personalised, culturally respectful, integrated care to older people
  • Better integrate aged care with community organisations and infrastructure to alleviate loneliness and isolation and improve elder quality of life
  • Create clear feedback mechanisms for residents and families that are actionable

Funding

  • Shift the focus of funding discussions from the volume of services being provided to the number of older people still missing out on vital services.
  • A genuine solution to allied health funding to ensure that the issues identified by the Royal Commission are addressed.
  • Reorient the funding via direct assistance to elders and their families (when practical), rather than through aged care providers
  • Provide adequate compensation for the aged care workforce, which is overwhelmingly female and whose work has been devalued
  • Ensure that the funding base for elder care is clear and stable, to provide certainty for providers as they plan their services

Staff

  • Attract, via better pay and conditions, more people to a declining aged care workforce who will be adequately trained.
  • Mandate adequate ratios of highly skilled nurses to aged care facilities. Without this expertise, adequate elder care is impossible
  • Fast track training and create incentives for aged care staff to enter the workforce and stay. Fast track registered nurses and training in infectious disease control.
  • Tie government funding to care and staffing that has a direct impact on the care of residents.

Expanding Access to NDIS for Older Australians

  • There is growing consensus that excluding older Australians from the NDIS is not only discriminatory, but counterproductive.
  • Currently, the NDIS is only available to people under the age of 65, unless the application for the scheme is made prior to that age. If elected I would strongly advocate for an extension of the NDIS to cover all Australians.
  • There is not only a moral imperative to offer the same support to older Australians that young people enjoy, there is also a strong economic case for doing so. Indeed, the Aged Care Royal Commission recommended funding parity for NDIS and aged care, so it stands to reason that NDIS could play a role in improving outcomes and quality of life for people over the age of 65, allowing them to age in dignity.
  • While some have raised concerns about costs, extending NDIS funding to this older cohort would contribute to significant savings in the longer term, as older Australians will be able to remain in their own homes, thus reducing the burden on the aged care system, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions, which would relieve our overstretched hospitals.
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