Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect

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The very first of the matters that we were required to inquire into by our Terms of References was:

the quality of aged care services provided to Australians, the extent to which those services meet the needs of the people accessing them, the extent of substandard care being provided, including mistreatment and all forms of abuse, the causes of any systemic failures, and any actions that should be taken in response.

Throughout this inquiry we have heard from many people about substandard care—from those who experienced it and from those who witnessed it. We have also heard from those who are responsible for regulating aged care and from many experts. We commissioned several studies and surveys that have increased the evidence base, but we do not have a complete picture of substandard care. We do know, however, that the extent of substandard care in the current aged care system is unacceptable, deeply concerning, and has been known for many years.

Old age may come upon us as something unexpected but it is a predictable phenomenon, with far-reaching implications for our social and economic future, and as a nation we cannot fail to consider the implications of ageing without provoking serious consequences. The key to any lasting reform is understanding why the aged care system has been failing us. There have, of course, been incidents of knowing neglect and wilful failure to do the right thing; but that does not explain the problem. Frequently I heard evidence of failure where those who were failing would not have seen themselves at fault when frustrations, lack of understanding, competing demands and human failings resulted in an older person being treated badly. Collecting particulars of failings is important but so too is learning from the particular to understand the general.

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