The Sydney hearings for the Royal Commission (running across this week and last) have been jam-packed. They are focusing on residential aged care – specifically residents with dementia and the use of chemical and physical restraints.
Most of the hearings have concentrated on specific case studies – stories from people who have had direct experience with these issues, so the Commissioners (pictured) can see examples of how this part of our system might be going wrong – and how we might fix it.
We’ve heard from providers themselves, plus aged care staff and residents’ families. Some of the evidence has been quite upsetting – and unfortunately these ‘horror stories’ are the only part of the Commission the media seems interested in.
These stories don’t represent the whole sector, or all aged care workers, but they do represent some bigger problems – and it’s extremely important that we hear them in order to start addressing the issues.
The case studies have raised concerns about staffing levels, education and training for those working in dementia, the prescribing (and over-prescribing) of psychotropic medications to residents without the consent of their family, and the unnecessary use of physical restraints on residents.
Some big providers have been in the spotlight as their representatives have been called to the stand to give their side of the story when families have accused them of poor care.
And earlier this week, one very brave carer told the Commission about her traumatic experience with dementia that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – calling for improved dementia training to guarantee the safety of both residents and staff in aged care homes.
CEOs tell us what we can be doing better
It hasn’t been all bad news.
Commissioners also spent a day hearing from the CEOs of three aged care providers on ‘best practice’ in the sector – ways we can be improving the system to allow for the best possible level of care for our residents, Mums and Dads.
Interestingly, they all pointed to ‘culture’ and ‘getting the right people’ as the best course of action to preventing substandard care.
“If you have the right culture of reporting, you have the right culture of working with staff, teams to understand where pressure points are, to be able to respond to concerns, then you address those issues inherently.”
“If you have the wrong culture, you inevitably won’t get the performances you are looking for.”
The CEOs also weighed in with ideas for regulation around the use of restraint – emphasising the importance of aged care staff and GPs working together very closely to get consent and create the right care plan for a resident.
The next hearings are in June – but we don’t know what their focus will be yet.
In the meantime, the Commissioners are busy compiling their first official report of the process from everything they’ve heard so far. It’s due in October.