Aged care homes regularly ration continence pads, royal commission hears | Australia news

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Australia’s elderly are sometimes left sitting in their own faeces and urine for hours on end because continence pads are regularly rationed in nursing homes.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association NSW policy manager, Paul Versteege, told the aged care royal commission hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday residents are frequently not getting access to the equipment and the resources they need to stay safe and live with dignity.

Painful bed sores can develop if pads aren’t regularly changed.

“It’s quite common for continence pads to be rationed,” Versteege told the hearing.

“Obviously the skin of older people is thinner and compromised much more easily. If a continence pad is soaked and has faecal matter in it and is in contact with the skin, if you keep that up for a while that is life threatening.”

He said some seniors in home care and nursing homes were having trouble accessing basic equipment such as wheelchairs or were given ones that can’t be operated by the user or were the wrong size.

“If you get the wrong wheelchair and you are stuck in it and dependent on it for your mobility, it can also lead to depression, because you can’t get anywhere if you are frail,” he said.

Honorine Dowie, a former personal carer turned aged care nurse in regional Victoria, knows too well the struggles to get access to the right equipment.

“We wanted a particular shower chair (with a special lifter) for this resident. When I asked, I was told ‘no we can’t afford it’,” she said.

“We couldn’t give her a proper bed bath, because of her hips and her condition. You couldn’t give her a proper hair wash.”

Dowie, who is expected to give evidence at the commission in coming months, said she persisted and tried to convince management at her former workplace to buy the $3,000 chair.

She argued staff were getting injured and the status quo wasn’t dignified for the resident.

“Their answer was ‘What warrants us spending that kind of money on one chair when we have 59 other residents’. I just got up said it’s called ‘human decency … if you can’t see that, this place is going to hell’.”

Building design flaws can also be risks to staff and residents.

Dowie said her former workplace was built as a low-care facility and then turned into a high-care centre.

“You can only get one person beside the toilet to help a high-care resident,” she told the Guardian.

“When it’s built for high care you can get one person either side of the toilet to help the resident.”

The hearings in Adelaide, overseen by commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs, will continue on Wednesday and next week before sessions around the country.

Ahead of Monday’s hearing, Scott Morrison unveiled a $662m funding boost to aged care. The prime minister earmarked $320m for residential facilities, the equivalent of about $1,800 per Australian resident, to help improve services for residents, while the rest will be spent on home care packages.

The commission’s final report deadline is 30 April next year.



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