Ballarat geriatrician Dr Mark Yates is not surprised at the scathing interim findings of the Royal Commission in to Australia's Aged Care Quality and Safety.
This week commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs's delivered their interim findings after months of hearings, describing the aged care system as a "shocking tale of neglect" and "a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation."
In the interim report, commissioners described the many problems that older people and their families have in trying to get access to aged care services, service shortfalls, the dispiriting nature of residential care, serious substandard care and unsafe practice, an underpaid, undervalued and insufficiently trained workforce, and isolation of young people with disabilities.
The interim report for the Aged Care Royal Commission is out and highlighted a number of key areas in poor standards of care and the long waiting times. Commissioner Lynelle Briggs expects every aged care provider to read this interim report and reflect on what they need to do. pic.twitter.com/FSNKB5jNzJ— 365 Care Australia (@365Care_AU) November 4, 2019
"Those of us who have been in the industry long enough aren't surprised by these findings," said Dr Yates, who is the executive director of the Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaboration for Health.
"I'm so pleased in many respects that the consumer voice, the older people and their families, are now finally being heard because, to be honest, I don't think those in the industry have been able to achieve the same traction that these voices will have."
Dr Yates said the royal commission would drive a rethink in to aged care and Ballarat was well placed to help lead the change.
"In Ballarat we've got a huge opportunity to lead excellence in aged care because of the infrastructure we've got. We've got six universities and the largest Victorian public provider of aged care in Ballarat Health Services. We should be able to get it really right."Dr Mark Yates
Dr Yates said the interim report recommended urgent action in three areas of aged care: oral health, use of psychotropic drugs and young people in aged care facilities.
Ballarat is already the home for a pilot project on oral health in aged care which has received $30,000 funding. Dental students from Latrobe Dental School visit residential aged care homes and help care for residents' teeth. And a smart electric toothbrush has been introduced that maps where in the mouth and for how long it has been used, so carers can see if residents are missing parts of their mouth.
And BIRCH has recently applied for a funding grant to conduct a study on use of psychotropic drugs in the elderly.
"Certain types of drugs (psychotropics) are being administered at alarming rates in order to manage residents. Sometimes psychotropic drugs are given to up to 60% of all residents in a single home, when it shouldn't exceed 10%," he said.
"One of the causes of psychotropic drug use in the elderly is hospitals. About 20 per cent of all psychotropics are started in hospital, so if we can turn around what happens in hospital can have fundamental impact on use of psychotropic drugs in the elderly."
Dr Yates said attracting the right people in to aged care jobs was also critical.
"You have to feel connected to people you are caring for and that's not for everyone - it's also something that has to be generated within the community. If we devalue the role of carers in aged care then they won't perceive their job as being important so won't attract people who have that connection with elderly in to industry."
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