By Julie Owens

09 March 2021

Look around.  More than half of all Australian women you see, and about a third of the men will end up in residential aged care and they’ll stay there for an average of 2-3 years. That means in your lifetime you will most likely either live in aged care or love someone who does. 

So we should all be concerned at the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which handed down its final report at the end of last month.  

The Royal Commission has made it absolutely clear that our aged care system is in crisis, with tragic outcomes including aged care residents with maggots in open wounds and up to half of all aged care residents being malnourished. 

It also shone a light on the barriers older Australians face when they try to access aged care, including the long, “cruel and discriminatory” wait for home care packages, which are designed to help older Australians continue living at home. 

When the Royal Commission was called 100,000 older Australians were on this waiting list. Years later 100,000 older Australians are still waiting, and those needing the highest level of home care are now waiting more than two years for care that has already been approved.   

I recently heard from a local 93 year old who’s been told he’ll have to wait 12 months to have his home care package upgraded so he can access care he needs now. 

The Royal Commission uncovered extra barriers to care for seniors from different cultural backgrounds, who struggle to find aged care services that meet their cultural and language needs.  

A recent report by Seva and UTS found there are only two service providers offering culturally appropriate aged care for the South Asian community in the Cumberland, Parramatta and Blacktown regions – where this community makes up 14% of the population and 1 in 10 of its members are over 65. 

The great tragedy of the Royal Commission is that hardly any of this is new information. The Federal Government has received 21 other reports on the aged care system since 2013, yet they failed to act and, during Scott Morrison’s time as Treasurer, cut aged care funding by $1.7 billion. 

The Morrison Government will be measured on its response to the Royal Commission’s final report. It’s clear that Australians need a government that can deliver – and not simply announce – systemic change.