The conversations of life

Do you think aged care puts profits before people? You’re not the only one


Research from UnitingCare has revealed Australians have big “misconceptions” about aged care – and who should pay for it.

Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, discussed the findings of the 2018 report during her statement to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety this week.

Ms Little said the organisation conducted the research – comprising of nearly 2,000 respondents – because they wanted to understand “community perceptions” around aged care.

Ms Little says the results showed that most participants “did not have a good understanding” of the current system.

“People thought that it was dominated by the for-profit sector … that the big for-profits were making a lot of money out of aged care,” she explained.

Most respondents thought the system was largely based around aged care homes, rather than home support programs and home care – even so, their views on residential care were quite mixed, with 37 per cent saying they felt ‘negatively’ towards it.

No one wants to pay

The other key finding was that many don’t believe they should be paying for aged care, or have a strong understanding of how the system is funded. The report didn’t provide any statistics on this issue, but Ms Little outlined the central finding for Commissioners.

“They think more money is needed from the government . . . They believe they’ve paid their taxes and they’ve contributed to the community all their life and they should be supported in old age,” she said.

But the research also clearly showed that aged care still isn’t a “top of mind” issue for most people.

Instead, respondents said their top three priorities were ‘the cost of living’ (17 per cent), ‘health and hospitals’ (10 per cent) and ‘employment’ (eight per cent) – while aged care trailed far behind in the list.

In fact, only six per cent of participants mentioned it at all.

“It’s not something that people really thought about until they had to,” said Ms Little.

Not surprising, but quite worrying. We are only at the end of the second week of hearings for the Royal Commission, but two things are already evident.

First, we will need to pay more for care if we want a better-quality system.

Second, we need to kick-start a national conversation about ageing and the type of care we would like to receive as we get older – and talk about it now.

If you would like to learn more about our aged care system, you can visit agedcare101 here.

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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