Australia

Nurses, physio reveal aged care deficiency

Health professionals have told a royal commission hearing in Perth they are struggling to provide adequate "person-centred care" to aged care residents.

Nurses and a physiotherapist have told the aged care royal commission they are struggling to provide adequate "person-centred care" due to a "tick-a-box" approach to delivering some services.

Physiotherapist Anna Urwin said she was frustrated that her role provided a "box-ticking type of service" rather than being focused on addressing physical function.

"We tend to go in and assess these people for their pain ... but we don't find out where it's coming from, so we don't actually give them a full, proper assessment of the cause of the pain," she told the commission in Perth on Wednesday.

"Then we apply a standardised approach to every single resident.

"In the model that is currently in the system, I'm not able to use my clinical skills to treat the problems that are at hand."

For example, Ms Urwin said a therapeutic massage would not improve function or quality of life for someone with pain in their hip as a result of weak muscles.

Rather, functional rehab training would provide the resident with more dignity and a sense of independence, and take the workload off other staff needed to help the person with tasks such as using the toilet.

Nurse Emma-Kaitlin Murphy told the commission she was often caring for up to 60 residents and agreed there were challenges to providing person-centred care.

"We can't give the time and attention that each person deserves," she said.

Ms Murphy gave the example of a couple who lived in separate parts of a facility because the wife required a different type of care due to her more severe form of dementia and tendency to wander off.

She said the husband was only allowed to see his wife twice a day for one hour on each occasion, but there were times when he saw her only once day when staff were too busy.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson spoke about ageism and elder abuse.

"We are going to have the peak of aged care in the next 15 years," she said.

"We have no time to waste. I've been talking about this since 1976."

Dr Patterson wants a ranking system for best practice in the industry.

"The tick-a-box approach in meeting standards is just good enough, but what we should achieve through the royal commission is more than good enough," she said.

Personal care worker Patti Houston told the commission that aged care in Australia needed a complete culture change.

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