Saturday, October 07, 2017

Unpleasant reading

I don't how this post will show, with much copy and paste. It is depressing but worthy reading. Any of us could end up in one of these situations and it is something our Federal and State governments need to deal with, properly. The care home model for profit does not seem to be working terribly well in Australia.

I strongly press the point that anyone of us could be in old age care. The monstrous profit making industry needs fixing.

A resident's lament

I live in a big not for profit home. Mentally I shouldn't be here, but physically, my body needed help, which I thought I was going to get when I came here. Slowly I have been educated about what aged care is really about.

I was here for two weeks when someone told me not to bother pressing the buzzer, because they never come. It's like being imprisoned and there's no way out.

I have food allergies, but I have to fit around the menu. The dietician didn't come for three months. Sometimes I go out to have meals. When I complain, the frustration is terrible - the denial is unbelievable. They say they'll "look into it". They treat you like a nuisance and they make you feel like an idiot.
Marie Claire

Staff speak out

As a recent corporate employee of one of the listed companies mentioned, I could not agree with you more. It is a national disgrace and the sooner something is done the better.
I left the industry for all the reasons  you mentioned in your article ... I was always being asked to cut costs and raise revenue.
In the end I said to the board, I'll just offer bread and water and charge the residents more – that should keep the shareholders happy!
I miss looking after these vulnerable people. I wish I could go back but, alas, it is as you say "all about the money".
- Former national operations manager
I currently work in a not-for-profit aged care facility as a Registered Nurse.
Last week I had to work an evening shift 2:30pm to 11pm followed immediately by a night duty shift from 11pm to 7am the next morning. This happens regularly in my facility. At the end of my double shift I'm so tired that I can hardly think, let alone make critical clinical decisions around care needs. On the night duty shift I have 150-plus high care residents to care for and on the evening shift I have 75 plus.
In looking after this many residents I have to rely on non qualified carers and an occasional Certificate IV carer to feed information back to me.
I have worked in nursing homes all over Sydney in the last ten years plus ... I have recently taught clinical nursing care in a Sydney University.
I do not want to become a resident, ever, of any Aged Care Facility I have worked in.
- Anonymous
I worked in a high care facility as a carer. Overall the facility was staffed by people who were kind and caring who wanted the best for their residents. However due to a lack of supervision, leadership and systemic issues a low standard of care was provided, with elder abuse being rife.
Some of the things I observed were residents left with food smeared across their face well past they had been assisted with their meal, a cockroach family had set up shop in a resident's wheelchair, rough manual handling with residents yelling out for staff to stop, poorly managed pressure injuries, a resident who was left in a wheelchair outside and subsequently received sunburn, poor hand hygiene, and leaving residents in soiled continence pads for extended periods of time.
I made a complaint to the aged care commissioner which was passed onto "the agency" ... the site was audited which the site passed and there was no subsequent change in practice.
- Tom Rolls


Food is an issue

The food is so bad where my mother is that she has no choice but to eat out (still being required to pay for food in the facility she is allergic to-as a coeliac). Luckily she is still relatively independent such that she can do this. God help her when she isn't.
- Carol Lee
Food served in a nursing home in Queensland with charges a refundable deposit of $800,000Photo: Supplied
[I] have no idea where that food [pictured in Fairfax Media] is. I am an aged care chef. Our food is fresh, nutritious, plentiful and of excellent quality with quite a bit of choice. All residents, no matter what type of care, get the same food unless they are on textured modified diets of course.
Cooked breakfasts twice a week, 2 choices of meals for lunch, desserts for lunch and dinner, soup plus a light meal for dinner, baked goods for morning tea. Birthday cakes for residents on their special day. All done for way less than $10 per person per day.
- Jeremy Thomas
[I] quit working in aged care as I just couldn't stand these massive companies making millions in profits. The chief management even came in to gloat how much they had made that year!!!
A lady was on a soft moist diet they gave me a bowl of mash potato and clumpy gravy and said "sorry we ran out of food it doesn't matter anyway she has dementia she can't tell the difference between steak and paper towels"!
It broke my heart every day as I watched these beautiful people who had worked so hard all there [sic] lives and now these companies get half there [sic] house or superannuation and the kids shove them in there to take what's left and most visit them when they are about to die .
There are some decent families who love there [sic] relatives and do come and see them but it is a sad minority.
- Arlo River


'Tick and flick'

I'm a trainer/assessor of future aged care workers, working within a private RTO. It's hard to articulate to students the absolute greed of service providers within the industry purportedly cloaked in care and special attention but revealed by you as callous, exploitative and profit making.
My father, 92, late stage Alzheimer's and palliative bowel cancer, is in a residential aged care facility and I despair for his treatment. He is my litmus test for my students – would I let them anywhere near him? Only if I'm satisfied they have the skills and compassion to work with old people do I submit a satisfactory assessment of skills and training.
But I get a lot of pressure put on me by my RTO employer to tick and flick students through because funding has to be repaid by any RTO who enrols a government funded student who doesn't complete or qualify.
- Anonymous


Families and mixed blessings

Oh my goodness this article was so pertinent to me. I work in health and still I have found the whole aged care path so difficult to navigate. My Aged Care, ACAT, home care, CHSP funding, national queues for funding etc etc. And then if your family member happens to be a self funded retiree you get less and less.
Decent facilities in our area range from $1-2 million deposits. But it's not that – it's the fact that it's so hard to get support and coordinated care for your elderly family member. It sounds good online or on paper, but try and put it into action, it's just really hard.
I am struggling through this process and I have a background in health, and speak English. Imagine if you are from a non English speaking background with little knowledge of systems. It's just not fair.
- Nicole Nagler
After trialling several facilities in Sydney's southern district, we settled on [a for-profit home] for my mother, Rosemary. Like most, they promised the earth.
The reality was inedible, cold and unnecessarily pureed meals. Response to calls for help often took over an hour, and were sometimes met with "what do you want this time?" or "why are you ringing again?".
Rosemary was there from July 2012 to June 2014. She was blind, immobile and needed help to eat and drink. Often her food and drinks were just left there so she was often hungry and thirsty.
Within months a serious pressure ulcer ("sinus"), roughly 1cm across had developed on Rosemary's buttocks … All we got were more verbal promises and an explanation that the budget was very limiting.
Rosemary had a high intellect and active mind, so she enjoyed word games and quizzes but was rarely moved to the common room to participate in them. Instead, she was often wheeled into the company of dementia patients.
- Peter Mahoney
My father was 89 when he wandered off from his nursing home in early August four years ago, walked into a neighbours back garden 200 meters from the nursing home, fell into a garden pond and died of exposure. Search and Rescue found him three days later. I was incensed at the time and took issue with the nursing home,
who at that time were in the process of renewing their licence to operate but nothing came of it.
These are the people who made Australia what it is … My father worked as a GP for over 40 years and died a miserable death through dementia. This is what we can all look forward to, ending one's life in misery just so someone can make a profit on the deal.
- Roche Manuel
An insightful and informative article ... but in reality the "system" does not care.
My husband was finally correctly diagnosed in 2011 with early onset dementia disease (Lewy Body) … He is at home with me, drug free, and even though it is extremely hard work (he is in incontinence pads) and cannot do anything for himself and I work part-time, we are muddling through.
I have tried, unsuccessfully, to place my husband into permanent care three times over the past 18 months. None of the facilities could cope with his disease, despite all the assurances on being admitted. They all resorted to chemical restraints, sometimes without my knowledge. Despite stating that they were "person-centred", he suffered falls, lack of food, being locked in his room, inadequate nursing care allowing an ingrown toenail to fester and even being detained under the Mental Health Act, for which at a later stage the nursing home said should never have happened.
I wish for John's suffering to end, but it will end with my continuing care and in his own home…the system does not care and will not listen.
- Catherine Clarke-Jones
My Dad was lucky being in an aged care facility that had wonderful care, food and staff. However he was in a little country town where the staff & carers had known the residents all their lives.
- Amanda Williams
My mother's nursing home was wonderful, creative and caring. We did around the clock shifts as our old darling fought against the dying of the light. We saw the 4am cups of tea and toast for those old darlings who don't sleep at night.
We dropped in to find the residents talking and reading 1954 Women's Weeklys – the Queen's visit discussed as a current issue. They lived in their moment and the staff stayed with it. My mother was often looking for her horse to ride home about 4pm – she grew up on a property – and thanked [the staff] for letting her stay over when the horse was not found.
An aunt and a cousin had vastly different experiences. Money does not make it better. My cousin paid $850,000 to live in an architecturally grand palace where at Melbourne Cup time, the old dears in chairs were shoved in front of cartoons. No fun no Melbourne Cup sweep, nothing to brighten dull days.
- Pamela Curr
I was the CEO at Carers Victoria for 17 years (working across aged, disability, mental health, chronic illness. Also, my 94 year-old dad lives in residential care in Geelong. [It]is a wonderful example of what quality aged care can be.
It is my experience that many families do not have the confidence to get to know the staff, ask questions, to be on alert, to contribute to the care of a loved one, to make suggestions, to be an advocate, to acknowledge good work and great staff. The more positive the contributions are from families the better the care, culture and support will be.
- Maria Bohan
I have been trying to get best care practice for my parents, what a joke that is. Mother has been told several times to just "go" in her pants as that is what they are for … Two weeks ago she buzzed for assistance, waited for as long as she could, my father was helping her as she couldn't hold on any longer, she had a fall and has broken pelvis.
… [I] was visiting her this week, she needed the toilet, is unable to mobilise told [registered nurse] ... nurse's response was, and I quote, "Well you will have to buzz and wait as the girls are busy" , she then walked out of the room. I am afraid of repercussions if I challenge this, as I have seen adverse repercussions when I complained previously.
- Threse M Phillips
My mother has lived [in a nursing home] since June 2016.
In mid-2016, the management contractor brought in new managers, the first aim was to introduce "additional fees".
In June 2016, my mother had a fall, she fractured her left forearm which remained undiagnosed and untreated for five days. During those five days, she was toileted, dressed and she was in pain, as was detailed in the clinical notes. The nursing home's explanation was that my mother didn't want to go to the hospital.
My mother is fearful of any complaints being lodged, she fears the repercussions. Right now, after a dietician's assessment of June 23, 2017, my mother is severely malnourished, she is starving. Her weight has been dropping since she entered the nursing home.
I see myself in that bed where my mother rests now, in maybe 15 to 20 years time. It's scary.
- Theresa Kot
Old people would be better off committing a crime and going to jail for the rest of their lives. Aged care is a disgrace. Me? I'm going to book end to end cruises until I die. On board doctors, as much food (with choices) as you can eat and someone to take care of your room.

- Carrol Halliwell


  1. Heartbreaking stories. Repeated across the country. When looking for a nursing home for my mother, the smell of urine or cabbage at the door became my litmus test. If it ponged in the doorway, the attitudes of reception often smelt too. I visited dozens and only two were places I could honestly put my mother's name down for. And both of them had years long waiting lists. Desperation allows some truly shonky organisations to not only survive but thrive.

    1. EC, both those smells would be off putting. Our care system for the elderly is seriously lacking in so many areas. Our municipality has great in house council care for the elderly, whereas the shire where Mother lives has outsourced its care and it is poor, confusing, contradictory and expensive.

  2. Anonymous11:26 am

    A treat in store. Pass the nembutal.

    1. Indeed Marcellous. I wax and wane on that.

  3. Mum was in a home for over 7 years. She loved it there. It didn't have fancy food or an en suite room but it did have staff that really cared. They took mum into their hearts, shared their news with her and made her feel loved and wanted. These homes receive no publicity because good news is no news.

    1. Marie, with two of R's sisters who worked in age care, I think however it is done in Britain, it is superior to how it is done here. I think it depends for you which council area you live in, with the Labour councils perhaps having better services.

  4. The aged care facility here on the hill ran into major problems earlier in the year, but Beaumont Care came to the rescue, and bought it off the previous owners, PresCare...and now it is improving in leaps and bounds. My friend's mother, who turned 100 years of age back in June, moved into the home up here on the mountain in early July...and everyone is very happy with it.

    I've visited a few times...and it gives out a great vibe.

    1. Lee, so many are only run for profit, whereas I think there must be an element of public spiritedness and a passion for the industry. They can still make money by providing really good care. A caring management will breed caring staff. That would be the friend's mother who had the birthday party.

  5. It sound like something what we call nursing home here. Although there getting better but still quite sad. I know one of the short coming, around here there under-staff and workers are under-paid. I could go on about our health system in usa.
    Coffee is on

    1. Dora, yes they are informally called nursing homes here too. Yes, similar conditions here for staff too.

  6. Care homes are 'easy money' for those who care little for the comfort of the elderly. In the UK they are mostly owned by Asians who pay staff nothing, but charge residents a fortune. No-one does anything about it!

    1. Cro, as we call them, Indians and Sri Lankans, are also very involved in aged care homes here too. There must be big money to be made.

  7. I drop in to see Pat a couple of times a week, just randomly and I'm pleased to see her in the activity room, even if they are all just watching TV and nodding off in the warmth there. I'm told they have quizzes and games there and Pat says she takes part in those. Those who are able are encouraged to walk about and there are chairs placed along the hallways for resting, one is by a beautiful big aquarium with fish in it. Since being there Pat has had her hair washed several times and now has pink in her cheeks again instead of the grey skin I saw before this. It's a church run place and I haqven't seen any reason to be worried about any of the residents there.

    1. River, it is great to have a positive story. Thanks. I think the church run places are often better than others.

  8. My grandmother paid a fortune for her aged care facility and was still treated like a lump of dirt :(

    So it seemed like a question of luck. When my late parents couldn't live in the family home any longer, they wanted to be VERY cautious.

    Two very professional aged care agents recorded all the family's requirements and financial resources, interviewed the residents and staff in various facilities, and took us to visit the top 12 contenders. We reduced it down to 3 finalists which mum and dad inspected. The choice was great!

    1. Hels, I know they have to be paid, but I am pleased to hear there are aged care agents, who will have the expertise that none of us have.

  9. These stories are frightening and it saddens me that those who care for our elderly in this manner can actually sleep at night with a clear conscious. That this happens around the world is atrocious, and I'm glad you put the light on it. Hugs...RO

    1. RO, it is perhaps easier to sleep if you think about how much money is rolling in. It does seem to be a world problem. Perhaps Europe does it better.

  10. I don't think it is much better here. I've visited in these places and they give me the creeps.

    1. Jackie, even with your more civilised society, that is disappointing.

  11. Oh gawd that was depressing Andrew 😶 I'm going to have to be extra good to my kids so they look after moi when I'm old and decrepit.. only kidding I couldn't do that to them. It's shocking to think of elderly people being treated like this. What younger people don't seem to remember is that they wouldn't exist in the first place without them.. ungrateful twats!

    1. Grace, I would not blame family too much for not directly looking after elderly parents. They might end up hating them. Finding appropriate accommodation and visiting them is important.

  12. Andrew

    paid yes, but they earned every cent of their money! My parents needed non-meat alternatives for meals, a concert once a week, a room dedicated to bridge players, a good library, a rabbi every Friday evening and all holy days, access to their own GP, walking distance from coffee shops, location within 2 ks of my home etc.

    Other residents might require internet access in their rooms, wine with dinner, support staff who speak German, Russian, Chinese etc, access for therapy dogs, religious services every weekend etc etc.

    1. Hels, R found it very good value to pay for someone to do the paperwork for his old age pension. He has never had to go to the DSS.

  13. I'm hoping I can stay at home until my final days and be cared for like my daughter's mother in law was cared for by family every day until she died. I'd like my children to realise one day they will be in the same position and care for me accordingly. Treat the elderly as you yourself would wish to be treated.

    1. River, I suppose it depends on your caring needs when you are old. In many cases and if you find the right place, you may be more comfortable in home than at one of your children's. There is some quite good in home support now.

  14. I read that article and I am not surprised at all. I had clients in aged care and some of the "care" i witnessed was atrocious. Bullying horrible people.

    1. Fen, it seems to be the norm and the good places are the exceptions.

  15. They're absolutely horrid here too, and treat residents like problematic children that must be controlled while they get thousdands per month per patient and the patients could indeed rather spend their last days on fancy cruise ships much cheaper, or in luxury hotels attended to by a nurse, also cheaper. I'd rather be shot in the head than end up in a care home.

    1. Strayer, be careful about what you don't wish for. Not all here are bad, and it probably doesn't have a lot to do with what you pay. While initially the cruise ship option seems like a joke, it is seriously worth looking at if you are not really high care.