Latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that in 2016 to 2017, 97 per cent of people in residential aged care facilities were aged 65 or over.
Individuals of this age are often placed in such establishments when they require a higher level of support in all aspects of their everyday lives. Maintaining high levels of personal hygiene is often a common issue for aged care residents, and as such, they depend on the assistance from the medical professionals who care for them.
However, recent revelations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearing show that residents have trouble accessing the basic equipment they need to live comfortably and with dignity.
Restrictions on healthcare supplies
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was rolled out in October of last year, and now, inquiries have just begun. This gives facilities and residents the chance to speak out about the level of care in such establishments.
Adelaide was the first Australian state to hear evidence, and amongst reports of malnutrition and assault, the inquiry also learnt about rationing that occurs in aged care facilities. It was reported elderly residents are sometimes left sitting in their own faeces and urine for long periods of time because continence pads are regularly rationed.
Not only is this extremely humiliating and uncomfortable for them, it can also cause an array of health problems, including bed sores. These occur if continence pads aren’t regularly changed, and result in painful ulcers and blisters.
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association NSW policy manager, Paul Versteege told the Aged Care Royal Commission hearing in Adelaide about how the rationing especially affects the older community:
“The skin of older people is thinner and compromised much more easily. If a continence pad is soaked and has faecal matter in it and is in contact with the skin, if you keep that up for a while it becomes life threatening.”
What else has the inquiry heard?
Reports of rationing also extended to how some residents were having trouble accessing equipment most suited to their needs. The example of finding wheelchairs was widely referred to. Staff spoke out about how some residents couldn’t operate certain models, or were given chairs that were the wrong size.
“If you get the wrong wheelchair and you are stuck in it and dependent on it for your mobility, it can lead to depression because you can’t get anywhere if you are frail,” Versteege said.
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s welfare in an aged care facility, it’s important to speak to a legal expert about your options. Get in touch with the medical negligence lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners today to see how we can help.