Australia’s aged care system is used as a stop-gap to treat our disabled youth, with the lack of meaningful financial backing to see the problem only worsen.
The amount of young people with high care needs currently occupying aged care facilities within Australia is far too great. Sadly, as we speak, over 7,000 people suffering from afflictions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy reside in facilities designed to cater to elderly people at a median age of 84. Putting young disabled individuals into an environment that doesn’t complement their age is in no way a moral or appropriate tactic for providing any kind of normal or quality life. Aged care facilities are designed and constructed to cater to the high needs of the elderly, not the needs of younger, disabled citizens.
What’s truly scary is some of the statistics that come with the territory of life within aged care facilities for younger people.
Within the last year, reports conducted by a number of regulatory bodies highlighted that 44% of all the younger, high care needs patients in aged care receive a visit from friends less than once a year. There are no cures or remedies to many of these (and the causes of) are highly ambiguous, making it all the more shocking and tragic when they do strike. What’s even scarier is that reports indicate that of these 7,000, 21% will go outside less than once a month, a thought I just cannot even fathom.
The overwhelming statistics and state of affairs surrounding young people who require high care prompted a federal senate enquiry in 2015. Warmly welcomed by organisations like Youngcare, Wesley Mission and the Young People in Nursing Homes – National Alliance (YPINH), the report highlighted the lack of services and support catering to a younger demographic which requires full time care. It greatly exposed the fact that nursing care facilities in Australia were not equipped to adequately provide care and quality of life reflective of the age and minds of younger high needs sufferers. Albeit, this isn’t the fundamental service nursing homes are designed to provide of course, ramming home the need for a serious and highly important federal overhaul of the procedures and funding currently in place for young people requiring full-time care.
This is a developed nation. Regardless of political stance, no budget or monetary status is more important than health and quality of life. Charity support is non-secure and, while virtuous, isn’t enough to resolve this crisis.
On the outside, what is needed is strong leadership and action into addressing the issues inside. While the Gillard NDIS bill, passed in 2013, is a landmark move toward supplying adequate resources for young disabled persons, we all know that legislation takes considerable time to roll-out. One only has to look at the report conducted by SBS in May of 2015 regarding the issue to see that the matter requires immediate and necessary action. Many high needs care patients in nursing homes are obviously a lot younger than their fellow inhabitants – creating an emotionally draining dynamic. Death is a common occurrence at nursing homes due to the age and health of the majority of elderly patients, creating a glum and melancholic environment for the young people living there. One major problem among a host for young people residing in aged care.
Unfortunately, as you could only imagine, this leads to a large majority of young disabled patients to become severely depressed or suffer anxiety on top of their already daunting health and well-being challenges.
For many years the cries of advocacy groups have fallen on deaf ears, met only by limited funding and support. The landmark Gillard NDIS was and is a great national step to help pave the way to greater and more suitable alternatives for young disabled people. However, with legislation reviews and continual budget cuts, the future looks murky in regards to the heartbreaking and downright wrong issue of young people in aged care. Treasurer Scott Morrison, while in office as the Minister for Social Services, oversaw considerable cuts to his own budget throughout last year. Pair this with the growing potential for Turnbull government to execute further cuts to social services and healthcare, as indicated through comments by numerous front-bench staff. Every preceding Liberal party has started the conversation about the possible privatisation of Medicare or has at the very least brought changes to healthcare services into their political agenda. The current mob under Turnbull, despite attempts to publicly oppose the sentiment, is and will be no different.
This is a developed nation. Healthcare should not be tampered with. It should only progress with all services becoming more readily accessible. Regardless of your political stance, no budget or monetary status is more important than the health and quality of life within a country, especially when it comes to disabled patients, young or otherwise. As minority groups know, any funding cuts by the government would only lead to more reliance on advocacy groups and charitable organisations. Charity support is a non-secure and limited resource that, while virtuous and extremely helpful, isn’t always enough to help resolve this crisis among others.
For this issue to not take precedence in the near future is an abomination on the plight of the disabled youth present in our society. The NDIS rollout is a remarkable plan that will help transform lives and create rightfully equal opportunity despite devastating ailments suffered by too many young within Australia. As a country, we’ve come so far in terms of equality to turn our backs on those who have high needs.
Those in need deserve the same rights and privileges that should be bestowed on all, disability or no.