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Aged Care Reaching Crisis Point

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Sue Kedley
Sue Kedley

By Adam Roberts for NZPA

Wellington, Oct 14 NZPA - We are failing our older generation, and comprehensive changes are needed to fix an aged care sector near crisis point, a report released today says.

A Report into Aged Care. What does the future hold for older New Zealanders? -- a Labour, Green Party and Grey Power joint-initiative -- was based on more than 450 submissions from 20 nationwide meetings attended by more than 1200 people, and conversations with various experts, nurses and caregivers around the country.

It painted a damning picture of a sector which receives $800 million in government funding every year.

According to the report, rest home residents were routinely given anti-psychotic medication to sedate them and make them easier to manage.

Some were left in bed for entire weekends, regularly left in front of the television all day, or left alone for hours after a fall.

Others were not walked or toileted regularly, and so suffered from a loss of mobility or incontinence.

In some cases, residents had their call buzzers removed, and were left on their own for hours, and so felt isolated or lonely, even in a bustling residential care home.

Proper medical treatment for common conditions such as bed sores was often withheld, meaning some residents ended up in hospital with necrotic pressure ulcers resulting in amputation.

Abuse and bullying of staff and residents was also common.

Green Party Aged Care spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said the investigation showed that problems in the sector were chronic and widespread.

"The care provided to older New Zealanders is utterly inconsistent, and often woefully inadequate," Ms Kedgley said.

Labour health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said the report made it clear care for older New Zealanders was failing.

"We need a new long-term coordinated national strategy and action plan that establishes better systems and care across the sector."

The key issue was a shortage of skilled staff, and the report recommended that the millions spent annually on aged care would be best used to professionalise the workforce rather than to build more rest homes.

With a rapidly ageing population and rising rates of dementia and chronic conditions, the issues were set to worsen unless they were urgently addressed, according to the report.

The report recommended the introduction of an Aged Care Commission and Commissioner, and a technical working party to address the problems highlighted in the report.

Government-funded training for staff, mandatory staffing levels for nurses, pay-parity with public hospital staff, and unannounced auditing by independent auditors, were also recommended.

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