We’re all getting older! This is not simply a trite observation; it is a statistical fact.
The Australian population is ageing. More and more people are entering the over-65 age bracket as a proportion of the total population.
It follows that the number of older people in the 85-plus bracket is also increasing.
The trend is not simply a statistical fact; it also represents a social problem, a country with a deteriorating ability to look after people in their old age.
This trend has been amply illustrated over the past two decades in the wake of compelling evidence that the quality of care that many of our seniors in the final years have received less-than-adequate or, some cases, inhuman treatment in some aged care institutions.
The governmental response to the increasing levels of complaint from families and aged care activists has been to set up inquiries; 20 in the past two decades.
The outcomes have always tended to be the same.
Politicians earnestly have adopted ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’ responses, followed by familiar promises of ‘gunna’. ‘We’re gunna do something!’
Well, we are now at the outcome of the latest inquiry: the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
This latest wide-ranging undertaking has been massive and comprehensive.
Evidence, much of it disturbing, has come from every sector of the vast, multi-faceted aged care sector.
The Commission report has resulted in 148 recommendations.
The Morrison government, area of the bleak news that was coming, has already promised $452 million to address initial problems and undertaken to make more “comprehensive” responses to the problems identified in the report.
This is all very well because it immediately defuses some of the opportunistic responses from opposition politicians and activists but time will tell whether a more responsive and effective national aged care system emerges.
Australians should be under no illusions about the scale of the problems which now face the government – and the nation – in regard to aged care.
The number of people in the 85-plus years bracket is around 516,000. By 2058 this number will be over 1.5 million.
The number of people in the working age group for every 85-plus person is now 4.2.
By 2058 only 3.1 persons will be in the 15 to 65 group.
The annual cost of aged care to the nation is around $21.9 billion now. Projections show this number is likely to rise by four per cent a year from now on.
At present about 400,000 people work in paid and volunteer positions in aged care.
Where will the workforce come from in the decades ahead?
The Commission’s comments on the subject of quality care and safety are frank.
Today’s system is ‘understaffed and undertrained’.
The picture now and into the future is ‘gloomy’.
The Commission has offered the government (the current one and those in the future) a possible roadmap for the nation to a brighter future for the aged care sector.
The keywords are ‘safety and quality,’ well funded and, of course, ‘accountable’.
The government has no magic wand to wave.
Rather it will have to knuckle down and work through the challenges represented by the recommendations and work with the aged care industry and state governments to develop the ‘rights-based’ act that is now required.
The promise to provide 100,000 care-in-home packages by the year’s end is just a start on a long road.
The Commission has indicated that the journey should be well advanced by July 2023.
The political and budgetary trade-offs ahead about funding, efficiencies and the objective of quality care and safety may make the journey uncomfortable but, as we’ll keep reminding the driver, we’re all getting older!To order photos from this page click here