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It’s time for cameras in nursing homes!

Vanessa de Largie | The Daily Telegraph | Feb 19, 2018

IT’S an unpleasant thought given the privacy implications, but it’s time we made cameras in nursing homes compulsory, writes Vanessa de Largie. It’s the only way to stop abuse.

IN November last year the Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act for 2016 to 2017 was released.

On Page 83 of the 100 page report it was noted that in that period there had been 2853 notifications of reportable assaults.

The instance of reports of suspected or alleged assaults was 1.2 per cent, the report noted.

And then nothing. The message appears to be ‘nothing to see here’.

Carol Williams, founder of Elder Care Watch said, if nearly 3000 children were allegedly assaulted in primary schools, there would be a public outcry.

I am a child born to older parents.

My late mother and father were placed in nursing homes/hospice facilities when I was only in my 20s. It wasn’t unusual for me to arrive at the facilities to find new bruises on my parents’ arms, legs, faces and torsos. When I took this up with management, I was assured that my parents had just suffered another fall.

It got to the point, where I fretted about leaving them, wondering what they were enduring at nights when I was unable to protect them, or defend them. Abuse was never proven but I had my suspicions.

Dad was moved to another nursing home, which seemed to care for him better. And my mother was shifted intermittently between the hospice and my home, where I cared for her.

One only has to type ‘‘abuse of the elderly’ into Google, to view an endless stream of videos uploaded by family members of their elderly relatives being abused in aged care facilities.

Less than a fortnight ago, shocking footage emerged of a disabled man being abused by a nurse in Victoria. The disabled man’s family suspected abuse when unexplained bruises appeared on his body. Their complaints to staff were ignored, so they set up a hidden camera in his room. The distressing footage confirming their fears was handed to the police and the Herald Sun.

In January, an 81-year-old Adelaide woman was allegedly assaulted at The Pines Lodge by her 45-year-old male carer. The victim suffered bruising to the face and neck, as well as two bleeds in the brain. She states that the carer assaulted her by hitting her in the face, while saying, “you will never cause any trouble again.” The defenceless elderly woman thought she was going to die.

Why doesn’t Australia give a toss about the elderly?

An abundance of media attention is given to feminism, women’s issues, children, the LGBT community and the indigenous. Yet Australia’s elderly are discarded and neglected, with issues affecting them, constantly put on the backburner.

How many of our elders in aged care homes have to be physically, emotionally, financially and sexually abused before action is taken? It’s a national disgrace that disgusts and infuriates me.

Abuse of the elderly is an under-recognised phenomenon. Much like domestic violence and child abuse, elder abuse is often a hidden issue that’s never ever reported.

The elderly person may not want to get the authorities involved or know who to contact. And elderly people who suffer dementia or Alzheimers may not be in a position to complain — they are particularly vulnerable to individuals who will take advantage of their cognitive impairment.

CCTV surveillance cameras needs to be made compulsory in the private rooms of all aged care facilities across Australia. Cameras are already allowed in childcare centres.

Is an elder’s life and wellbeing worth less in the eyes of the government, ministers and law enforcers? Because that is certainly the message that is being conveyed.

‘Invasion of privacy’ is cited as a reason not to take action, but some ‘invasion of privacy’ is a small price to pay to keep the aged safe and treated respectfully as they should be in their final chapter.

Not only would compulsory CCTV cameras in private rooms of aged care facilities protect the elderly, it would protect staff members against false allegations.