While COVID-19 has had an impact on all facets of life, aged care is among those sectors to be hardest hit. Not only are older people at far greater risk from this respiratory disease, the pandemic response has also affected this demographic acutely.
In May this year, a United Nations report noted: “The spread of COVID-19 in care homes and institutions is taking a devastating toll on older people’s lives, with distressing reports indicating instances of neglect or mistreatment.”
The Royal Commission report on COVID and aged care
Closer to home, we have witnessed tragedy unfold in institutions such as Sydney’s Newmarch House, while the impact of the pandemic has been felt across every aged care facility in the country. As a result, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety conducted an investigation, Aged Care and COVID: A Special Report, delivering six recommendations for the sector.
This report described the COVID-19 pandemic as “the greatest challenge Australia’s aged care sector has faced”. But the problems go far deeper than the number of coronavirus fatalities. Globally, the UN has also expressed concern that “with lockdowns and reduced care, violence against older persons is on the rise”, noting that even pre-pandemic figures put the rate of those experiencing abuse as high as one in six.
What does this mean for the future of aged care?
The Federal Government has now indicated its commitment to implementing all six recommendations from the Royal Commission Report, but will deliver a detailed response to the Parliament by the end of the year.
This is likely to involve improvements in staffing at facilities and greater access for visitors. It remains to be seen, however, just how much these reforms will foster more effective safeguards for older Australians against neglect and abuse.
What is clear, though, is how the pandemic has led to new instances of elder abuse and without a proactive approach from the sector, these situations will continue to occur. Furthermore, the culmination of media reporting and pressure from official reports (such as from the Royal Commission and the UN) now places aged care under far more scrutiny. And as a consequence, safeguarding measures for older people in care are coming sharply into focus.
How should the aged care sector respond to these challenges?
These institutions are now firmly in the spotlight. It will be an uncomfortable time, where complaints arising out of the pandemic must be thoroughly investigated. This has also highlighted shortcomings that need to be addressed.
In order to be proactive in tackling these issues, there are a number of steps to be taken now, including:
- Making sure all aged care staff are sufficiently trained in effective safeguarding measures
- Undertaking a thorough audit of all practices and procedures in an institution, preferably by an external body
- Comprehensively reviewing workplace policies to ensure all risks are minimised for those in care
- Initiating and supporting an immediate external investigation whenever there is a complaint
Getting on top of these matters will not be easy, but doing so is essential.
For any institutions requiring assistance, MyKludo has been set up to offer the kind external expertise that could be the difference between meeting such challenges and falling short. By connecting clients with professionals who can tailor to the needs of your organisation, we offer a range of services, including training, consulting and conducting investigations.
For support with safeguarding or to conduct an investigation in any aged care facility, or indeed any organisation, contact MyKludo to find out how our services can work for you.