Aged Care Royal Commission – Themes from Sydney Hearings for the week beginning 13 May 2019

By Louise Cantrill, Partner

The Royal Commission into Aged Care continued for another full week in Sydney. The second week’s evidence was really focused around Professionals and Professors in the industry and their viewpoints on the ways dementia care falls short as well as hearing from facilities that take a much more innovative way of providing aged care to dementia patients, with these facilities being looked to as inspiration of changes that should be taking place across all aged care providers.

Evidence

There were overall themes that transpired through the various witnesses’ evidence over the course of the week. They can be categorised as follows:

  1. Overall treatment in facilities: Being a core theme from week one, it became even more evident in week two of evidence that adequate care is not being provided to residents. Particular concern was given to staff’s lack of attention and care in feeding residents as well as dental care. Concerning evidence was given where residents with swallowing problems were not given attention at meal times to ensure sufficient eating.
  2. Innovative aged care facilities: Valuable evidence was given by a number of facilities that practice a humanised way of providing care to dementia residents. This evidence really highlighted the benefits of creating a home like environment with a high level of family involvement, items from home as well as a less regimented approach. Providing care in this manner whilst being complimented by more of a personal care approach leads to less dementia residents being agitated and also allows prolonged cognitive function.
  3. Restraints: Being such a concerning theme from week one, this theme played a prominent role in week two also. Instead, restraint was highlighted to address how the issue can be managed by other methods such as providing a higher level of care. Facilities adopting a ‘person centred’ method of care which involves really understanding the individual with dementia and their ‘triggers’ can reduce agitation and occurrence of ‘complex behaviours.’ If residents are managed in a more personal, empathetic and caring way it has been proven that the need for restraint dramatically declines.
  4. The future for Dementia and aged care: With week two showcasing evidence from a number of Professors in the industry as well as experts from policy departments many key areas that require further development and attention became apparent. The following key points were noted:
    1. A clear universal vision and strategy in relation to dementia care needs to be made with a focus on clear training models on policies.
    2. More support at diagnosis stage of dementia is critical. Dementia should no longer be regarded as a ‘death sentence’ and support needs to be given to families when a person is first diagnosed. This ensures the care for the dementia patient can take place in a positive manner to safeguard a longer chance of cognitive function and also allowing the possibility of remaining in the community for longer.
    3. More support for at home carers and better access to good respite needs to be implemented.
    4. A better and more comprehensive transition for dementia residents to an aged care facility is vital. This needs to be an extremely thorough process to ensure less of a shock to the dementia patient when entering a new environment.
    5. Better ways of collecting data to assist in more dementia research.

What is next in the Royal Commission into Aged Care?

The next phase of Hearings for the Royal Commission into Aged Care will take place in Broome from 17 June 2019. It will be interesting to see the further evidence that emerges.

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