World Elder Abuse Awareness Day highlights mistreatment of elderly Australians

ANMF Media Release 15 June 2018

Today’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day marks a day when people come together to voice their opposition to the abuse and suffering that is inflicted on older people around the globe, and to highlight the need for appropriate action. Elder Abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person, and may be physical, social, financial, or psychological, including mistreatment and neglect.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says today is a day for Australians to recognise and call out the systemic mistreatment and neglect of our elderly living in residential aged care because of chronic understaffing.

“This level of mistreatment continues to occur across Australia with little recognition or response. But it is an issue that’s affecting the health, well-being and basic human rights of our elderly and needs urgent attention now,” the A/Federal Secretary of the ANMF, Annie Butler, said today.

“Our members continue to report dangerously low staffing levels to us, for example where there is just 1 qualified nurse to manage the care of up to 100 residents on a night shift. Or that 1 carer has to feed, bathe, dress and mobile 16 residents in 45 minutes, many of them with complex needs.

“As we know, there’s been a 13% reduction in qualified nursing staff working full-time in nursing homes from 2003 to 2016 and that means residents are receiving 2 hours 50 minutes of care per day, well below the 4 hours 18 minutes they should be getting. From our perspective, that mistreatment and neglect of our society’s most vulnerable, is tantamount to abuse.”

Ms Butler said the ANMF’s national aged care campaign is calling on federal politicians to legislate for a minimum number and appropriate mix of registered and enrolled nurses and carers to residents.

“Without making ratios law, providers are employing fewer and fewer nurses to care for an increasing number of residents, who aren’t getting the care they need and deserve,” she said.

“Staffing ratios work well in the public hospital system and in child care centres. And they will be just as effective if they are implemented in nursing homes. Without ratios, we’ll continue to suffer a crisis in aged care.”

On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Ms Butler also encouraged nurses and carers working in aged care to report any concerns they have about possible abuse of nursing home residents or others in the community, to the Aged Care Complaints Commission.