Aged care: Preventable nursing home deaths surge

The Age
Michael Bachelard
29 May 2017

Sarah Russell’s mother, Joan, died in a nursing home in September 2015. She believes the death was premature.

“When my mother was engaged, she was terrific. When she was alone and not engaged, she’d suffer anxiety … [and] she would get up and walk,” Dr Russell, a public health researcher, said.

Dr Russell gave up work to look after her, but she could not be there at all times, so she attached a note to her mother’s walking frame to warn the personal care assistants at the aged care facility not to leave her walker within reach.

One day, in the dining room after lunch, they did.

“She got up and walked, fell over. She didn’t break her hip, but she did damage her ribs, and six weeks later she was dead. The GP made the connection between the fall and her decline … I think the fall hastened her death.”

Dr Russell said the care assistants in Joan Russell’s home were “extremely busy”, but “the other explanation is that there were a lot of people in Mum’s nursing home for whom English was not their first language.

“It’s a real problem, not just for instructions left on a walker, but for communication at all. I don’t know if the person who left the trolley beside my mother was not able to read the instructions or was too busy and forgot.

“We were great friends, my mother and I … It mattered a lot to me that she had the fall.”

Dr Russell received an apology from the facility.

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Climate emergency

I acknowledge the Wurunjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

Reason Party bases its policies on evidence. When I was a uni student in 1979, I first heard the evidence about climate change. Over the next 40 years, the evidence has become more conclusive and more terrifying. Now we have the IPCC’s systematic review based on 15,000 academic articles. Yet our major parties still don’t use this evidence to make credible policies.

It is not only the coalition to blame for the mess we’re in. Shame on both the ALP and the Greens. Fiona Patten’s favourite saying is the “perfect is the enemy of the good”. A member of the Reason Party would have voted in favour of the ALP’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009. The policy was far from perfect, but it was a start.

And shame on the ALP. Reason Party would not be flip flopping over Adani. We oppose the development of new coal mines, full stop. And we oppose fracking for onshore gas and building pipelines in the NT because it is not evidence-based policy.

Evidence indicates we must close existing coal-fired plants and transition to renewable energy. This is the only way Australia can reduce our emissions in line with the Paris agreement.

Today the coalition released a policy to help younger Australians buy their first home. There is no point buying a home if we don’t have a planet.

Thank you.

Mother Of All Myths That Only Mums Mother

Looking for the perfect gift for Mother’s Day? Forget the dust buster. It’s a myth buster.

Motherhood is a fertile breeding ground for myths. Take the myth implicit in Bill Heffernan’s recent comments about Julia Gillard: that women who don’t give birth are “barren”. When we put this myth into the myth buster, we find that there are many reasons that women don’t have children. Calling these women “barren” denies the rich and fruitful relationships that many women nurture with children – you don’t need ‘your own kids’ to mother.

When people talk about mothering the way Bill Heffernan does, they perpetuate the myth that motherhood is defined by biology, breast feeding and “buckets of nappies”. This limited definition of motherhood assumes that ‘mothering’ is exclusive to biological mothers. It ignores the fact that women without children can also be good mothers and that there are many ways to mother.

There are many other myths around motherhood that we should feed to the myth-buster. Take these old favourites: “only women who give birth are mothers”; “children can only have one mum”; “there is no substitute for a mother’s love” and, the mother of all myths, “that only biological mothers are ‘real’ mothers”.

When the myth buster does its work we see that lots of women mother children – adoptive mothers, step mothers, social mothers, foster mothers, ‘aunties’, friends, neighbours, nannies, and so do some men. It is simply not true that all this mothering is second best or that these contributions to raising a child are less real or less motherly.

A child can have many mothers. In fact, there are many days when many, many mothers are needed – to get the kids to footy or netball training, to prepare dinner and get to the dentist on time, to make costumes for drama club, to drive kids to music lessons and parties, to take a turn with the wheel-chair, the shopping trolley or the pram, to help with maths homework, to remove nits from hair and dispense first aid to the guinea pig.

From childhood to adulthood, lots of people provide mothering in the form of sex education, learning to drive, mentoring about responsible drinking. They also share tears, reveal secrets and provide hugs and support children through the rites of passage. Yes, it takes a village. The myth that only mothers mother denies the important way that women without children can and do contribute to childrens’ lives.

With so many women mothering, why limit Mother’s Day lunch to only one mum? Every Mother’s Day, a lot of women who mother miss out because the traditional celebration of Mother’s day excludes women without children. This exclusiveness can make Mother’s Day a sad day for some women. However, by expanding our view of mothering, and by moving an apostrophe, we can share the celebration and make it a Mothers’ Day.

By acknowledging that mothering doesn’t just come from mothers, we provide opportunities to welcome more women to Mothers’ Day lunch and, in some families, we might also welcome a man or two to the celebration.

It is not only women who benefit from motherhood myth-busting. There are some children who feel sad on Mother’s Day because it focuses on the notion of ‘real’ mums. Kids who do not know their biological mothers, or cannot be with them, may not feel like joining in. However, if we acknowledge that there are lots of ways to mother and place less emphasis on biological definitions of mothering, we could make the lives of some kids happier. If we expand our rules about who is a mother, we might find that more children can enjoy the Mothers’ Day stall at school.

This Mothers’ Day, lets put all the myths in the myth buster and buy a toaster for Philomena for taking kids to the footy, a perfume gift pack for Auriol for all her school holiday baking, gardening gloves for Tina for telling the kids a bed-time story and chrysanthemums for Julia Gillard for caring about the future of work for kids.

This Mothers’ Day, the myth buster is the perfect gift for people who want to share the ritual of breakfast in bed. Perhaps we should send one to Bill.

The Australian May 11 2007

Behind the numbers

Letter, The Age

The federal government cut payments to aged care by $1.2 billion over four to help curb a predicted blowout in costs. Aged care providers are predictably are up in arms. Unfortunately, government subsidies often serves the interests of the providers more than residents.

Under the current arrangements, the providers do their own assessments of residents. When a resident is reclassified as requiring a higher level of care, the provider receives more money from the federal government. However, staffing levels rarely change nor are extra services provided to the resident. One in eight claims are reportedly incorrect.

The Aged Care Funding Instrument is based on residents’ level of care rather than ‘restorative care’.  There is no financial incentive for providers to introduce services such as strength training or lifestyle programs that would improve residents’ quality of life.

The funding of aged care homes requires greater scrutiny and transparency to ensure the best possible care for frail, elderly people.

Sarah Russell, Northcote

Pain is real, not a myth

Letter, The Age

It is tragic that older people commit suicide (The Age, 17/1). The National Coronial Inquiry Service estimates that two people over the age of 80 are taking their lives every week. The most common method is hanging.

Ian Hickie suggests older people commit suicide because of myths and negative stereotypes about ageing, pain relief, hospitals and how the health system treats elderly people. Are these myths?

Recently, an elderly woman living in an aged care home died in excruciating pain because no one was suitably qualified on the night shift to administer the prescribed morphine. The woman’s daughter was so traumatised she could not remain at her mother’s bedside to hold her hand.

We do not need motherhood statements about healthy ageing. We need political action to ensure older Australians are valued and receive the quality of health care that they deserve.

 

Sarah Russell, Northcote