This past week the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, called for a culture of respect for older Australians. This was in the context of the Prime Minister addressing the damning disclosures of abuse and neglect revealed in the Royal Commission Aged Care Interim Report.
The Prime Minister announced that the federal government would provide $537m to increase aged home care packages, reduce the use of chemical restraint and get young people out of residential aged care. It is a start, but as Ian Henschke from National Seniors said it fell short financially of what is needed to support older Australians. While the support is welcome by some, for me it also falls short in giving older Australians a dignity of care and respect as they age.
As of 1 December 2019, 10,000 home care packages to support older Australians in their homes will be rolled out. This will leave 110,000 still in the queue waiting and disappointed they will find no home care package under the Christmas tree this year or in the years to come! A home care package says to older Australians that they matter. It makes economic sense to provide more packages and keep people in their homes. It also demonstrates that the federal government is leading the way in showing respect for older Australians.
Another way for the federal government to demonstrate a culture of respect was to provide the shortfall ($400,000) in funding for the non-profit aged care home in Murchison, Victoria. Support for the funding model while another service provider was found would prevent the dislocation of 40 residents and 70 staff looking for another job. The cost of the closure is enormous to the residents, families, the community, the taxpayer and the lives of the aged care workers.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, in response to the Murchison crisis, said the federal government hoped to reach a solution. He spoke to the federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colebeck on 31 October and since then all I have heard is silence – the quiet Australians in Murchison Aged Care facility powerless and vulnerable. Where is the culture of respect?
There is a saying ‘the fish rots from the head down.’ It means that leadership has to start at the top. A culture of respect has to start at the top – from the Prime Minister down. Murchison is a lost opportunity for the government to show a culture of respect. Yet, maybe there is still time. All the residents want for Christmas is security of tenure in their home in Murchison. Is a demonstration of a culture of respect from the federal government, from the top down, too much to ask for?