Lawyer calls for politicians to address nursing home neglect

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A solicitor who has written extensively about elder law in Australia has called for legislative changes to empower aged care residents, so they can pursue complaints and set benchmark standards of care.

Poor quality of care can lead to injury, trauma, or harm, Rodney Lewis says.

Rodney Lewis said politicians across all major parties had ignored the issues of nursing home neglect in their election campaigning so far.

He said people would be shocked if they really knew how bad things were.

"There are many, many stories out there and I've been privy to quite a number of them over the years. My frustration has only grown," Mr Lewis said.

He said he often heard about poor quality of care leading to injury, trauma, or harm.

"For example: infection which isn't noticed, and a subset of that would be pressure sores, which can relatively quickly develop into a life-threatening condition and does so," he said.

Mr Lewis said he was not aware of any of the major parties mentioning the issue this campaign so far.

"There needs to be empowerment of the residents, because that means that, to some extent, they will be also overseeing and monitoring the system and they will have some power to alter behaviour. They don't at the moment."

Labor previously announced its commitment to a major review of the way aged care services are provided and paid for.

'Bullying, ridiculing, antagonising. It was frightful'

For three years, Jean (not her real name) stayed with her husband all day, every day, in three different nursing homes.

Jean said what she saw shocked and saddened her.

"I soon learned that I had to be there with him, in order to protect him," she said.

"I observed so much ill treatment that it seemed to me that I had to stay with him."

Jean said she heard a lot of yelling and screaming at the residents.

"Bullying, ridiculing, antagonising. It was frightful," she said.

"And then of course, the neglect, I observed the neglect — people left for long hours without supervision."

"There were bruises on my husband that they couldn't account for. They were not recorded. Those sorts of things were very disturbing."

Jean said in one instance a man called Jim could not swallow, and was screamed at by attendants.

"They [the attendants] would scream at the top of their voices to swallow. 'Swallow', they would yell at him. And the food would run down his chest," Jean said.

"And I just put my head down and I thought, 'dear God, help this poor man'.

"He died soon after, and then soon after that my husband deteriorated too, so that was my last memory of that place."



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