In 2022-23, OPAN members provided over 36,000 advocacy cases for seniors, families and representatives – a concerning 36% increase over the prior year. This mounting case of volume signals persistent and systemic problems.
Despite ongoing reforms, communication breakdowns frequently affected both home-based care recipients and residential aged care residents. At the same time, choice and control restrictions spanned across all aged care service types.
In some instances, providers unilaterally made decisions about older individuals’ care rather than respecting their preferences. Family member perspectives were also wrongly prioritised over residents’ desires.
“Everyone deserves respect and dignity as they age – but sadly, our rights are eroded as we get older,” said OPAN CEO Craig Gear.
“This report allows us to assess the most common presenting issues for older Australians and put forward some practical and actionable recommendations to aged care providers and the Government.”
Gear emphasised implementing a rights-based Aged Care Act enshrining communication rights and choice/control principles as pivotal. Harmonising disjointed state/territory guardianship and administration systems is also essential to safeguard older people’s autonomy.
Among OPAN’s recommendations are enabling interconnected advocacy programs for simplified access, maintaining face-to-face assistance, and need-driven assessments so older people rapidly receive suitable support.
The report also called for sustainable home-based care funding so seniors aren’t prematurely forced into residential facilities.
Gear concluded, “We look forward to working with the Government and our OPAN members on the upcoming Exposure Draft of the new Aged Care Act to ensure the voices of older people are heard.”