Photo: Courtesy of Youngcare
By Yasmin Noone
Young people living in nursing homes are one of the most marginalised and isolated groups of people in Australian society, a new Monash University report has found.
Their life in residential aged care is also socially isolating and boring, and because they are placed in the wrong atmosphere for their needs, young people with disabilities living in a facility generally lead impoverished lives.
According to the Young People in Nursing Homes whitepaper released earlier this month, around 44 per cent of young people in aged care receive a visit from a friend less than once a year.
More than 20 per cent went outside “seldom or never” and 34 per cent of young people with a disability living in a facility almost never participated in any community-based activities like shopping, sports, or visiting friends and family.
“An estimated 3,300 people under the age of 60 live in nursing homes, which are not suited to their needs,” the whitepaper said.
“Aged care facilities are not designed or resourced to facilitate the active involvement of young people with high clinical needs in everyday activities or support their continued participation in the life of their community.
“Young people in nursing homes are one of the most marginalised and isolated groups of people in our society, with 53 per cent receiving a visit from a friend less than once per year and 82 per cent seldom or never visiting their friends. They are effectively excluded from our society.”
The five-year research project, conducted by Monash in collaboration with the Summer Foundation, summarises current research and policy related to the issue of young people in nursing homes in Australia.
The report aims to profile the ‘typical young person’ living in aged care, explain why they are there and describe the impact of living in a facility for older people before one’s time.
And while there is always going to be a number of young people in society who live with a disability, the report suggests that the current figures are extremely high.
This, the report explains, is the result of improvements in medical technology and rehabilitation services over time, which has increased survival rates and life expectancies of people with an ABI. These days, people with degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis are also living longer.
“This has resulted in a new population of people with severe disabilities and complex care needs that require 24-hour supervision or very high levels of daily care and support, challenging the established disability service system,” the report states.
The report concludes that young people living in aged care is a “serious social issue, which can – and must – be fixed”.
The system, she said, should be more responsive and support younger people with a disability to live in their own home, in the community for longer.
“There are some aged care services that work really hard to provide the best services for young people but they are just not resourced or to set up for young people to live there and lead an active life,” said Ms Winkler.
“The average older person lives in residential aged care for about three to four years but I’ve known younger people who have lived there [up to] 30 years.
“…[So] we should stop people from going in there in the first place.
“One of the key learnings from this initiative is that it would be more cost effective and less complex to stop young people from going into aged care rather than letting them go in and then getting them out.”
The recent release of an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report demonstrated that over five years of the Younger People with Disability in Residential Aged Care program, which ceased on 30 June, approximately 140 people under the age of 65 years were moved out of residential aged care into age-appropriate accommodation.
“The AIHW report illustrated in the space of five years there was only a two per cent reduction in the number of young people living in aged care facilities,” Ms Vit said.
“Clearly a lot more needs to be done to tackle this problem.
“Disability is not a life choice. These are circumstances that are forced upon people unexpectedly, impacting individuals and families in ways that no one can ever really grasp until they are in that situation.”