The new 10-year National Dementia Action Plan has come under criticism from Craig Gear, CEO of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), for its failure to address concerns around the segregation and detention of people living with dementia in aged care facilities.
While Gear expressed support for the joint initiative between federal, state and territory governments, he noted that the current draft does not mention the human rights of people living with dementia.
Members of OPAN’s National Older Persons Reference Group drew particular attention to the plan’s lack of action around locked dementia units. Additionally, a recent submission paper from OPAN noted that people living with dementia are frequently denied their rights in community and healthcare settings, as well as by family or appointed Guardians or Attorneys.
In response to these concerns, Gear referenced an upcoming paper from the Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA) called ‘Can your guardian stop people contacting you?’, which is part of their Compass project.
According to Gear, there is a common misunderstanding within the community and aged care sector that if a substitute decision-maker has been appointed for medical decisions, an older person cannot make day-to-day decisions for themselves or participate in larger decisions relating to their lifestyle, health, and wellbeing.
Gear highlighted practical examples of how the work of OPAN and others around supported decision-making had prevented abuse. However, he cautioned that the legislative constraints outlined in the Compass paper were open to misuse and abuse, be it intentional or unintentional.
He also emphasised that older people have a right to be informed about and participate in decisions that concern them and that those who require support in decision-making must be provided with access to the necessary support to make, communicate, and participate in decisions that affect their lives.
As the National Dementia Action Plan undergoes revisions, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed and if adequate measures will be taken to ensure the human rights of people living with dementia are respected and protected.