The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) members provided 36,904 instances of information and advocacy support to older people, their families and representatives in the 2022-23 financial year representing a 36 per cent increase from the previous year.
Poor communication and lack of choice and control are the top two issues facing older people in aged care settings for 2022-23, according to the third Presenting Issues report released today, which analysed these cases handled by aged care advocates.
The report uncovered that despite reforms continuing to be implemented from the Royal Commission, communication issues were very common for both older people living at home and those living in residential aged care.
The report also identified that choice and control were top presenting issues across aged care service types.
In some instances, providers were making decisions on behalf of an older person, or prioritising the decisions of family members or alternative decision-makers instead of the individual’s preferences.
OPAN CEO Craig Gear OAM said the report plays a fundamentally important role in identifying the most pressing issues facing older Australians receiving aged care in the past 12 months.
“Everyone deserves respect and dignity as they age – but sadly, our rights are eroded as we get older,” Mr Gear said.
“This report allows us to assess the most common presenting issues for older Australians and put forward some practical and actionable recommendations to aged care providers and the Government.”
“It is critical that the issues of communication, choice and control are addressed in the new Aged Care Act through a rights based approach – we simply cannot afford to get this wrong.”
Mr Gear said the report also highlighted the challenge of state and territory guardianship, powers of attorney, and how the administration system interacts with Commonwealth aged care.
“Everyone needs to understand the privilege of being appointed a power of attorney or guardian and that it means you must act on the wish and preference of the older person.
“OPAN also supports the need for harmonisation of these state and territory systems if older people’s rights are to be genuinely protected and respected.”
Recommendations to Government
OPAN has put forward a set of recommendations to the Federal Government, some of which include:
Enable a ‘no wrong door approach’ across the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP), the care finder program and the Elder Care Support program.
Continue to invest in face-to-face supports for older people accessing aged care services.
Implement a new rights-based Aged Care Act to address and act on the breaches of rights outlined in this report, including improving communication methods, and the right to exercise choice and control.
Ensure appropriate and sustainable funding of the new Support at Home program so that older people have timely access to the services they need and are not forced into residential aged care due to lack of access to appropriate supports and services at home.
Prioritise the implementation of the single assessment services for aged care that is driven by the diverse needs of older people, so older people are not waiting for the gatekeepers of the system to identify the genuine care and support needs.
“We look forward to working with the Government and our OPAN members on the upcoming Exposure Draft of the new Aged Care Act to ensure the voices of older people are heard,” Mr Gear said.