Quality of life a challenge for aged care

Quality of life is a major challenge for much of the aged care industry which treats older people like patients, an advocacy group says.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates says issues about older people's autonomy, life choice, quality of life and treatment as an individual are significant, even in the better aged care services.

"Quality of life issues and indeed the issue of people's rights and autonomy as people, like we're used to experiencing in normal life, are a major challenge for a great proportion of the aged care industry," Mr Yates told AAP.

"And they are more of an issue in terms of the numbers of people, the scale of the issue and how long it's been going on than actual cases of severe abuse."

The aged care royal commission will investigate quality of care and quality of life issues during a public hearing beginning in Darwin on Monday.

Mr Yates said older Australians have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in all aspects of their lives in aged care.

He said the aged care system, particularly residential care, was set up on the basis of a welfare model.

"It needs to be turned around.

"This is a person who wants to continue their life but has some impediments because of frailty or disability and so on, so how do we help you achieve that - rather than now you're done for, we'll keep you fed and watered and clean, but you're really a patient."

He said older people still had a life to live.

"Many of them don't want to go near any kind of aged care because they are frightened that aged care will take that life away from them and just turn them into patients."

Mr Yates said even higher quality aged care services may still struggle with issues like nutrition if individuals' choices were not taken into account.

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW policy manager Paul Versteege said quality of life issues could not be addressed until basic safety aspects of aged care were fixed.

"My view is that before you start really dealing with quality of life you have to make sure that the basic essential safety aspects of aged care are okay," he said.

"In many cases it has been shown that nursing homes really woefully fall short of the mark."

Mr Versteege said aged care safety meant ensuring people were physically safe, sheltered and receive adequate personal and clinical care and nourishment.


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