The conversations of life

Opal Aged Care on 7.30 Report – why families need to speak up


With the ABC’s 7.30 program recently airing some damning allegations of abuse and neglect, this week we thought it was important to touch on some of the issues surrounding the report.

Their investigation focused on three cases at Opal’s aged care homes and raised questions about CEO Gary Barnier’s dealings with families when they brought complaints directly to him.

While Mr Barnier denied he had “intimidated” family members, he admitted the organisation and their staff could have done better.

“There are times where we don’t hit the mark, and it’s not acceptable and I should stand up for it and I should be held accountable and I’m here for that,” he tells the cameras.

Sadly while these instances are uncommon, with 180,000 people in residential aged care across Australia, they do happen.

A difficult decision

It’s not an easy decision for a loved one to move into aged care. As someone who has worked in the aged care sector for many years – and had to support my own mother into an aged care facility – I know the anguish and guilt – especially when mum or dad don’t want to be there.

Residents and their families are entitled to expect a high standard of care from their provider – and have their concerns listened to and respected.

The first step is to speak up early – speak to the management early. You will get a response and nearly always for the positive.

If you are not making progress, you can contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

As we covered before, nearly 90 per cent of complaints are able to be resolved within 30 days without further action being taken. The system largely works.

Before you contact the ACCC, you can also talk to an advocate at one of the Government’s NACAP-funded OPAN Advocacy organisations in your state. These aged care advocates assist people to either self-advocate or with permission advocate on their behalf. This can often resolve issues so people don’t need to approach the ACCC to make a formal complaint.

OPAN has a website here with the contact details of each of the funded advocacy organisations and each organisation has its own website as well.

And if you are still not happy, remember your parent can move to another facility. There are always options available.

You can find more information about aged care on 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.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Jill I think you need to also look at the number of complaints. This is increasing. 32% increase from 2016/17 to 2017/18. Factor in also that people are going into care later with more significant disabilities. Add to that the fact that the minister quotes that 40% of people in residential care do not have visitors. Many of these people are not able to speak, complain or advocate for themselves. The number of complaints that go to the commission are the tip of the iceberg.
    Have you been through the complaints process. The ones that are “resolved” in 30 days can include where family are pressured to meet with management who despite your assertion above do not always respond in a positive light. Management apologize say they will do better. Bingo “resolved ” there is no follow up.
    In our case which involved many issues including the the death of my father from septicaemia from a necrotic heel ulcer the process took 9 months.
    Are you also aware that in cases like ours which although it involved both my parents it is seen as an individual case so no sanctions, penalties or even publication of the complaint can be made against the facility. This does not happen unless issues are “ongoing”. A bit difficult when the complainant is dead and no one is monitoring the facility.
    Have you also tried to use the advocacy service. Often there are time constraints for putting in a complaint and advoacy have issues with availability.
    I hope that if you ever have any issues with neighbour’s or the house you live in people just blithely tell you to move.

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