‘Inappropriate practices’ leaving aged care residents in chronic pain

Date: Aug 21, 2017

Half of aged care residents across Australia may suffer unnecessary pain due to under-treatment of chronic conditions, a leading advocacy group has claimed.

Painaustralia cited research estimating that 80 per cent of people in care homes experience chronic pain, which is exacerbated by the fact that 52 per cent of residents also have dementia.

The organisation said the figures suggest there could be many individuals in nursing homes who are suffering chronic pain but are unable to communicate their discomfort.

People who are non-verbal due to cognitive impairment can experience behavioural and psychological disturbances, which may lead aged care homes to inappropriately use chemicals or physical restraints.

Furthermore, an Alzheimer's Australia survey found that 41 per cent of care professionals have no training or experience with pain assessment in dementia patients. This is despite 90 per cent of respondents believing extra training would be beneficial.

If medical care provided to residents of nursing homes falls far below accepted standards, facilities could be found negligent, resulting in compensation for affected individuals.

Widespread reforms needed

Painaustralia CEO Carol Bennett called for urgent reforms to ensure one of the country's most vulnerable demographics can retain its dignity.

"Our residential aged care facilities are falling short of managing chronic pain and current federal funding provision does not support evidence-based best-practice care," she explained.

"Untreated pain not only impacts the individual resident, there is also greater distress to their families and a greater burden of care for staff."

She called for improvements across three areas:

  • Staff training in pain assessment and management;
  • Multidisciplinary care; and
  • Reporting practices that include pain.

According to Ms Bennett, these objectives can only be achieved via changes to federal funding processes.

"Anything less is denying appropriate care to our older generation," she added.

Is there an aged care crisis?

The country's aged care industry has faced a number of negative press stories in recent months.

Monash University revealed that preventable deaths in nursing homes have climbed 400 per cent in 13 years, with 1.2 per cent of these due to clinical care failings.

In June, KPMG identified widespread customer service problems in the industry. The Big Four firm claimed 60 per cent of providers had out-of-date information on their website, while 70 per cent could not confidently answer questions over the phone.

Meanwhile, allegations of elder abuse at Oakden nursing home in South Australia have left many people shocked, angry and questioning the quality of the country's aged care facilities.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered nursing home negligence, our dedicated team of personal injury experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers may be able to help.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.