(Australian Associated Press)
Some Australians would rather die or “poke their eye with a pencil” than go into residential care, the royal commission into aged care has been told.
UnitingCare Australia national director Claerwen Little has revealed the grim consumer feedback her organisation took from a focus group and an online survey.
She said it found that people did not have a good understanding of the aged care system and it was something they did not think much about until they had to.
“Sadly, some people suggested they would rather die than go into a residential aged care facility,” Ms Little said.
“They would rather poke their eye with a pencil than have to enter a home.
“The expectations of people are that residential aged care is not a good place to be.”
In other evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, Aged Care Guild chief executive Matthew Richter said his organisation, which represented a small group of care providers, was working on a system to offer consumers information about individual facilities including the type of care they provide as well as data on their performance.
It would also offer consumer feedback on the experience of residents and families who have dealt with specific centres and could provide a rating system on individual homes.
Mr Richter said it was hoped the system could be rolled out later this year.
“We’ve got to finish the prototype, test it and then determine what early data we might start to pick up from the ground,” he said.
“To get it operating as quickly as possible is our goal.”
On the issue of workforce pay and training, union group United Voice questioned the value placed on aged care work.
Executive Projects Coordinator Melissa Coad said low pay rates were compounded by the fact that most staff were employed part-time.
“So people really do struggle to amass enough money to live adequately,” she said.
Ms Coad said the question of pay, issues of training and ongoing education and high workloads would all affect the sector’s ability to attract enough staff into the future, amid predictions the aged care workforce would need to grow to one million by 2050.
“If wages and other working conditions don’t change we’re going to have significant problems in attracting people and retaining people to that workforce,” she said.
“The thing that our members tell me repeatedly is that they feel stressed in their work, pressured in their work.
“They don’t have enough time to do their job properly.”
The royal commission is investigating both the quality and safety of both residential and home care across the country.
It will sit in Adelaide for the rest of this week but also take evidence at further hearings planned for interstate capitals as well as regional centres.