May 22, 2013
Australia's peak aged care body says the sector is grossly underfunded, as concerns are raised over the handling of complaints at nursing homes.
Family and friends say they are being turned away from some facilities after complaining about the level of care.
Sydney woman Eileen Pearce was accused of interfering when she asked that her 98-year-old mother's food be cut up.
"I'd say 'it's only a concern, I'm not complaining'," Ms Pearce told Lateline.
"She said 'well I take it personally and if you don't like the way we treat your mother, you can take her somewhere else'."
The nursing home later moved Ms Pearce's mother to a new facility.
Another Sydney woman, Elaine Todd, was banned from visiting her elderly mother when she consulted an outside doctor.
"I was absolutely gutted," she said. "I'd been looking after my mum since 1996.
"Until she went into that facility, we were extremely close."
Aged and Community Services Australia spokesman John Kelly says banned visits are relatively rare but are a sign the industry needs help.
"This is a stressed system, and without an injection of new dollars into this system we will continue to have these sorts of stories," he said.
Aged care advocates are also lobbying the Federal Government for a more robust and independent complaints system.
"They're not looking for a fight, they're not looking for conflict, they're looking for good care," law expert Rodney Lewis said.
It comes as Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA), the industry's peak body, launches a major public awareness campaign for increased funding.
It says the Government provides less money housing older Australians than it does housing prisoners.
LASA chairman Peter Cosgrove says the new campaign, 3 Million Reasons, highlights the magnitude of the problem.
"The amount of funding that is presently in the program is inadequate.
"We basically need both sides of politics to dedicate themselves to increasing the level of attention and funding to the provision of aged care.
"People in Australia grow old silently, and we're all going to end up there with a life expectancy that's increasing.
"Every 71 minutes an aged person is in need of services which they can't access because there's no capacity.
"We need 83,000 beds urgently."
LASA says the aged care workforce will need to triple by 2050 to look after six million elderly Australians.
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