Aged care workforce significantly under threat

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Media Release

3 November 2016

Aged care workforce significantly under threat

Today’s Public Hearing into the Future of the Aged Care Workforce will hear about the startling decrease in qualified nursing staff across aged care. At a time when the care needs of older, vulnerable Australians are on the rise, the proportion of direct care staff is declining. 

Alzheimer’s Australia National President Professor Graeme Samuel AC said this is extremely concerning, most significantly for people with complex care needs, such as dementia, and most particularly in residential care. 
“Alzheimer’s Australia believes these trends are already impacting on the quality of care offered to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and this situation has the potential to worsen in the future as demand increases,” Professor Samuel said.

“Demand is growing at a faster rate than the supply of aged care services.1 It seems inevitable that care to consumers, including people with dementia and especially those with more complex care needs, will be compromised if we do not address staffing levels, staff training and the inappropriate use of chemical restraint in aged care.”  

The number of older Australians with dementia is growing significantly, largely due to the ageing population. Currently it is estimated that there are already more than 353,800  Australians living with dementia and over a million people involved in their care.3 Dementia is the second leading cause of death3 and the recent Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Causes of Death Report (2015) found that dementia is expected to overtake heart disease to become the leading cause of death4 in a few years, if current trends continue. 

It is not surprising that the care and support of people with dementia is one of the largest healthcare challenges facing Australia today. 

“We hear that dementia is “core business” of the aged care system and while some people may be receiving good care, the reality of life within an aged care service for a person with dementia is often very difficult,” Professor Samuel said.

“Staff training on how to best support a person with dementia needs to be reviewed as a priority. Physical and chemical restraint is used widely. Opportunities for meaningful social and physical engagement for residents are limited and staff may not be trained on how to communicate effectively with a person with dementia.

“The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency has 44 outcomes across standards that residential aged care are required to achieve. We have 97.8% meeting these standards according to the Quality Accreditation Agency. If that's the case, given the concerns regarding care of people living with dementia, I think we have a concern as to how they are reviewing care of those with a cognitive impairment or dementia.” 

It is critical that all care services are well equipped and motivated to provide safe, high quality care for people with dementia. For this to happen:

  • Aged care services must have adequate numbers of skilled, qualified staff, focused on providing person-centred care.  
  • The workforce must have the appropriate education and training, skills, and attributes to provide quality care for older people, including people with dementia, who frequently have complex care needs. 
  • Efforts to attract and maintain the right workforce need to be implemented by equitable pay and conditions and appropriate career paths and opportunities will need to be offered.

Alzheimer’s Australia believes the crucial consideration in developing future aged care workforce strategies must be the needs of consumers. 

“People with dementia want what we all want - to live in a comfortable pleasant, nurturing environment and to establish meaningful relationships with the people who care for them,” Professor Samuel said.

Read Dementia Australia’s full submission: The Future of Australia's Aged Care Workforce

Read the Senate Hearing address to the Community Affairs Reference Committee from Alzheimer’s Australia National President, Professor Graeme Samuel AC.

1 Productivity Commission (2011).  Caring for older Australians: Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, No. 53; pp.347, 354
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Dementia in Australia
3 Alzheimer’s Australia, (2011) Pfizer Health Report Issue #45 – Dementia, Pfizer Australia
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) Causes of Death, Australia, 2013: Cat no. 3303.0

Media enquiries:
Bianca Armytage | 0407 019 430 | [email protected]

Alzheimer’s Australia is the peak body representing people with dementia and their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. More than 353,800 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than half a million by 2030.

National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
An interpreter service is available
(The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)
Dementia is a National Health Priority Area

Media resources and additional information: