Aged care reforms vital for Australia's future says Ita

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24 April, 2013

Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose has called on both sides of politics to commit to the full implementation of the vital aged care reform package, Living Longer. Living Better. to achieve the quality services older Australians urgently need.

Ms Buttrose, National President of Alzheimer’s Australia, told the National Press Club today that the aged care system is failing people.

“Many facilities are providing high quality care,” Ms Buttrose said.

“But we still see examples of discrimination and violation of basic human rights every day in our aged care system.

“In many cases, within weeks of entering residential care, people with dementia become unrecognisable in terms of their physical, mental and emotional welfare."

Nearly one quarter of residents are being medically restrained with anti-psychotic medications, often without their consent or the consent of their family. This is not acceptable or consistent with good medical practice.

The Living Longer package is welcome but it is only a start. Dementia Australia’s Fight Dementia Election 2013 Campaign document launched today, sets out how the Government can achieve better care for people with dementia.

“We need to improve the quality of residential care, develop flexible dementia-friendly respite services and provide more community care high care packages,” Ms Buttrose said.

“We must also invest much more into dementia research – $200 million over the next five years – if we are to have any hope at all in combating a condition that is expected to affect almost 900,000 people by 2050.”

Ms Buttrose has also called on Health Ministers to implement a National Dementia Action Framework to meet the promise they made when they announced dementia as the Ninth National Health Priority Area last year.

“We need this framework to set clear and measurable goals that we can aim to achieve for people with dementia,” she said.

“For example, within five years, no one should wait longer than six months for a diagnosis of dementia. Currently the average time of diagnosis is more than three years from the onset of symptoms.

“As well, within 10 years, hospitals should have systems that recognise people with cognitive impairment and have training programs for staff so that hospitals are no longer the dangerous and confusing places for people with dementia that they often are today.”

In the address, Ms Buttrose outlined her vision for a society that is inclusive and values the strengths and contributions of all Australians, regardless of age, disease or disability.

“To achieve the vision that I have set out today, we need a different approach to our health and care system. We need an approach that focuses on the strengths of the individual and respects their right to have control over their own lives,” Ms Buttrose said.

“In our everyday lives we make choices and expect those choices to be respected.

“Why should people with mental health issues, a disability, or who are ageing be treated any differently?

“We need to empower older people, those with disabilities or mental health issues to exercise choice in the services and support they need.”

Ms Buttrose challenged the government and the community to make Australia a world leader in a system of care and support that enables people to achieve the highest quality of life, and makes them want to contribute and be a part of a society that values them.

To download a copy of the Fight Dementia Campaign – Election 2013 document, click here.

To download a copy of Ita’s speech, click here.