Embedding pharmacists, tackling ageist practices, removing inequities and doing more to welcome pets in residential aged care are among recommendations in recent submissions to the royal commission.
Pharmaceutical peak the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia highlighted medication safety issues in aged care and makes recommendations to ensure the safety of residents in its submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Among the recommendations, PSA reiterated called for a national program to embed pharmacists into all aged care facilities to reduce the risk of medicine-related harm (read more here).
PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman said aged care residents should have regular access to the expertise of a pharmacist for advice or support with their medications.
“The health of the aged care sector matters a great deal to pharmacists and many pharmacists already contribute to activities and services to improve resident safety and system changes impacting on quality and safety in aged care facilities,” Dr Freeman said.
“However, older Australians, particularly aged care residents, deserve more,” he said in a statement at the time of the submission’s publication.
PSA highlighted in its submission research that found 98 per cent of aged care residents had at least one medicine-related problem identified in a residential medication management review.
It also found that over half of residents were exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine.
“Pharmacists embedded in facilities can contribute to improving quality use of medicines facility-wide and reducing harm caused by overuse of medicines,” Dr Freeman said.
PSA also called for other action to improve resident safety and health outcomes, including more training and education medications for the aged care workforce.
Elsewhere, the advocacy campaign tackling ageism EveryAGE Counts told the royal commission ageism contributed to neglect and abuse in aged care facilities.
In its submission, EveryAGE Counts outlined how ageism played out in aged care, such as the absence of a vision for a good life that might include impairment in older age, a lack of safeguards against neglect and elder abuse and the absence of a human rights approach and framework.
EveryAGE Counts proposed a series of recommendations under the following three categories:
- seeking change to the broader social and political norms about older people
- reforming legislation, policy and research to ensure the design of the aged care system is informed by rights-based principles
- encouraging providers to better focus on supporting the wellbeing of aged care recipients.
EveryAGE Counts co-chair Robert Tickner said reviews of laws and current regulations in aged care were essential, however they were not enough to overcome ageism.
“Until we address the underlying ageist attitudes, stereotypes and beliefs that are so entrenched across our society and that inevitably inform and influence our aged care sector, we’re not truly fixing the problem and we will never achieve the fundamental changes and real outcomes we all want to see,” Mr Tickner said.
The submission from the Australian Association of Gerontology, the national peak linking professionals working across the multidisciplinary fields of ageing, also highlighted the need for systemic reform to address ageism and safety and quality issues in the sector.
In its submission, the AAG presented a principles-based, conceptual framework and guide to strategically structuring and prioritising thinking, discussion and action to guide transformational change in the support of older people.
The principles address the need for a system reform and service delivery informed by evidence, the importance of recognising the whole person, and ensuring equity of access and outcomes, the AAG’s submission said.
Improving care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
AAG’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing Advisory Group made a submission to the inquiry calling for action on the aged care access and outcomes inequities that older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face.
The inequities include a lack of services and choice and challenges in meeting the health and aged care needs of people living in remote communities.
There needs to be consideration and development of new models of care that better meet the health, social and cultural needs of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the submission said.
To address access barriers, ATSIAAG recommended expanding specialist aged care services, improving the cultural competence of the aged care workforce and using an evidence-based approach to care.
ATSIAAG and The Healing Foundation, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address the ongoing trauma caused by past actions, are also preparing a joint submission for the royal commission in regards to Stolen Generations.
Pets in aged care
Elsewhere, University of South Australia health science lecturer Dr Janette Young called for greater acceptance of animals in aged care settings.
She highlighted the findings of the 2018 Animal Welfare League report that found 18 per cent of aged care facilities allowed pets to stay with their owners in the facility (read more here).
Dr Young said the bond between humans and animal was important especially as people aged.
“While many aged care homes do provide regular contact with animals – in the form of visiting therapy animals – this ignores the unique bond between an individual and an animal who knows them, loves them and accepts them unequivocally,” Dr Young said.
She said pets could also address loneliness and social isolation and improve pharmaceutical costs.
“Happier residents cut both pharmaceutical costs and staff time [in managing poor behaviour],” she said.
Dr Young said more research was needed on how to best incorporate animals into aged care settings without overburdening staff and address allergy-related issues.
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