A PORT Stephens woman whose mother was found with maggots in her mouth the day before she died at a Raymond Terrace nursing home has called for "less talk and more action" following the royal commission into aged care.
Jayne Carter demanded an investigation into the aged care sector after staff at the Opal Raymond Terrace Gardens nursing home in 2016 said they had found maggots in the mouth of her mother, Shirley, who had dementia and Parkinson's disease.
"We knew right at the beginning of the royal commission we were going to uncover a lot of horror stories, because it has been hidden for so long," Ms Carter said. "It's great that we are doing this, and I am so pleased the Aged Care Commission has been renamed and given teeth.
"But there are some good nursing homes out there, and really good people working in them, and they are being tarred with the same brush as big profiteering franchises who put profits over people. We have to ensure that these smaller rural aged care communities are still standing at the end of this - because they are mostly running at a loss.
"We need to pay people working in aged care more.
"They have to employ higher numbers of people to work, and they have to make it something people are proud to be doing, not something they are doing because it's all they could get."
In its interim report, the royal commission into aged care said a fundamental overhaul was needed of the aged care system and the way it was designed, funded and regulated. It cited "widespread over-prescribing" of drugs that sedate residents, rendering them drowsy and unresponsive, and called for action to stop the flow of younger people with disabilities going into the aged care system.
The report also called for more support to help older Australians stay in their homes. It said large numbers of people regularly waited almost three years for a home care package.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has promised a "significant package" of funding for the aged care sector before Christmas, but has not put a figure on the promise or agreed to ban the inappropriate use of psychotropic drugs in the same time period.
"We want action, not just words. Let's make it happen," Ms Carter said.
"Aged care homes runs by profiteering companies have always suffered from abuse and neglect because they want to make a profit. They have shareholders, it's a business. Their staff levels have always been about cost cutting, and their pay is appalling.
"We all need to be more responsible.
"I want responsible reporting, and responsible thinking. Critical thinking.
"We need to consider - 'Would I want my mother chemically restrained if she was a danger to herself? Would I want her restrained if she was dangerous to other people?'"
Catherine Henry, principal of Catherine Henry Lawyers and the Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesperson on aged care and elder law, said there were many dedicated providers and workers - but they worked in an "unkind and uncaring system" that failed older Australians.
She said the Aged Care Act 1997 was weighted in favour of providers, allowing profits to prevail over quality of care.
"The final report will not be handed down for at least another year," she said. "The frail aged can't wait that long for action. Last year, 16,000 died while waiting for their approved home care package, and another 120,000 are on waiting lists. Increased government funding will help but it should be available in conjunction with new legislation and effective regulation. We need to address staffing issues and the lack of availability of data on key performance indicators."
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