Aged Care

Urgent action needed to address harm to people with dementia in care, says report


A new report has found that people living with dementia in Australia are experiencing significant harm in residential aged care facilities, including violence, abuse and neglect.

In the report “Reparations for harm to people living with dementia in residential aged care,” it was highlighted that the government, the justice system, health care and aged care providers are failing to recognise, redress and repair this harm, or hold those responsible to account.

According to the report’s authors, Associate Professor of Law Linda Steele from the University of Technology Sydney and dementia and disability campaigner and independent researcher Kate Swaffer, access to reparations is a human right that should be available to people who have been harmed in institutional settings, just like other groups who have received compensation in the past.

The report also calls for changes in policy and practice around access to justice and immediate improvements in the treatment of people with dementia in residential care, as well as long-term action towards deinstitutionalisation of aged care and enhancing community-based support.

Despite numerous inquiries over the last two decades drawing attention to the significant and ongoing harm experienced by people living with dementia in aged care facilities, the solution has often been framed around improving quality in these facilities, such as staffing, resources or funding. However, the authors of the report argue that this is a systemic problem that has impacted many people and that nothing has been done to reckon with or redress those who have experienced harm.

The study found that people living with dementia in aged care, as well as their family members and care partners, encounter ineffective complaints and prosecutorial processes, including barriers to reporting harm to the police, and difficulty accessing justice through the courts. Therefore, the authors developed a set of principles to guide the design and operation of reparations for people with dementia, informed by empirical research with people living with dementia, care partners, advocates, and lawyers.

The report’s authors hope that this report will bring awareness to the need for reparations for those who have been harmed and lead to changes in policy and practice that ultimately improve support and care for all Australians with dementia. The study was funded by Dementia Australia Research Foundation, together with project organisational partners Dementia Alliance International and People with Disability Australia.

Source: University of Technology Sydney.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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