Royal Commission Study: Australian Views on Ageing
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
The every day Australian's view on ageing is revealed in research released this week by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Attitudes towards older Australians (defined as 70 years or more);
The current aged care system; and
The care plans of Australians as they grow older.
Roy Morgan surveyed more than 10,000 Australians by telephone and Ipsos conducted 35 focus groups. Interestingly, Roy Morgan states that to the best of its knowledge, "this is the first time a survey like this has been conducted internationally".
Combined, the two reports - What Australians Think of Ageing and Aged Care (Roy Morgan report) and They Look After You, You Look After Them: Community Attitudes to Ageing and Aged Care (Ipsos report) - number 277 pages.
No Awareness and No Plans
Overall, I was astounded with the lack of awareness of Australians around aged care and their denial and avoidance of the topic.
To quote the Ipsos report,
"Most people give little thought to the prospect of needing care - be it in their home or residential care - until life events force them to deal with it.
"Middle-aged participants, and older people who had not made plans, were more likely than others to raise the prospect of euthanasia as a way in which they would exert control over their later years and ensure their quality of life did not drop below an acceptable level.
"A minority of older people had made genuine efforts to put in place realistic plans for where they will be living, and how they will be cared for, in their older years or as I call it ‘post retirement years’."
Doubtful That Euthanasia is an Option
For the great majority of Australians, I do not foresee euthanasia as an option. Currently, voluntary assisted dying is lawful in Victoria in limited circumstances, and this is expected to be the same in Western Australia from mid-2021. It is not lawful in other Australian States and Territories.
You Need to Make Plans
This leaves us with the need to make realistic plans.
To help with aged care planning, the research does draw out how Australians would prefer to live as they grow old.
They would prefer to remain independent and living in their own home.
They wish to maintain good health, both physical and mental, by engaging in regular exercise, social activities and stimulating hobbies.
If they require low-level care, such as help shopping, cooking, cleaning and attending medical appointments, they would prefer this care to be provided by family and friends. Where this is burdensome for family and friends, they will accept paid help.
If they require higher-level assistance, such as dressing, eating, going to the bathroom and nursing care, they prefer to pay for help from an aged care service provider.
Most want to remain living in their existing neighbourhood to maintain their existing social networks. At the same time, some would like to downsize to a more practical property that is easier to maintain and, in the process, will liberate funds for retirement and post retirement years.
Many wish to live in a multi-generational setting. They do not wish to live with their children – which would be seen as a burden – but would like an environment allowing interaction with young and old and community involvements.
Only 25% said they would prefer to live in a residential aged care facility if they were to need high-level care.
Residential Aged Care Needs to Encourage Inter-Generational Interactions
Reading through the research I observed a chasm of opinion on residential aged care.
It seems that those who regularly visited someone in a residential care facility had a more favourable opinion of residential aged care than those who rarely or had never visited a residential care facility.
Those regular visitors, though, all believed that residents of aged care facilities are lonely.
To this point, I believe that in a post-COVID world, as a society we need to continue to pursue initiatives that encourage inter-generational interactions in aged care facility settings.
One fantastic example was the social experiment recorded by the ABC in its documentary series, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds.
Making Care Plans
Drawing on the military adage, "prior planning prevents poor performance", having a realistic plan in place gives peace of mind. This is my area of specialty.
When to comes to care planning, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for you or your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.