The conversations of life

The Oakden tragedy highlights need for more aged care funding for dementia support


Like many people, we have been following the depressing stories coming out of the Senate inquiry into the treatment of patients at the now-closed state-run Oakden Older Persons Mental Health facility in South Australia.

This week, families, staff and stakeholders gave evidence in Adelaide that has been disturbing to say the least.

Health officials have painted a picture of a “closed environment” with “locked wards that wrongly restrained residents, overdosed patients and lacked adequate resources.

But there were a couple of snippets that caught our attention. One was of a man with dementia that made him aggressive – Oakden was the only facility that would take him in.

The inquiry also revealed that 11 former Oakden residents are being cared for at a nearby aged care facility, but they need a specialist dementia facility which is having to be built.

My point is that despite dementia affecting the majority of residents in residential aged care, not all facilities are equipped – or staffed – to provide dedicated dementia care.

Funding key to good dementia care

This week Opposition Leader Bill Shorten picked up on this, declaring that tackling dementia is the leading health care and aged care challenge for the next 20 years.

“It’s staggering that there is no training standard required in aged care for helping people with cognitive impairment or dementia, despite the fact that it affects seven out of every 10 residents,” Mr Shorten said.

Yes, it is staggering. But we think Mr Shorten needs a reminder that this kind of training costs money.

If we want to ensure people living with dementia can choose where they live and how they are supported, then we need to invest more in staff and services for both people living in aged care facilities and at home with families and carers.

With one million Australians expected to be diagnosed with dementia by 2050, I think we can agree it’s something we all have a stake in.

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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