Senate Examines Youth Living in Aged Care
19 February 2015 at 10:10 am
People as young as 23 are being housed in some aged care facilities, the first day of a Senate Inquiry sitting in Western Australia has been told.
The national Senate inquiry investigating young people with disability living in residential aged care had its first public hearing in Perth on Tuesday.
The chair of the committee, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the investigation was timely as the NDIS rolls out in the various trial sites, especially in Western Australia.
“To find out last year that the youngest person with disability living in an aged care facility in WA was 23 stood as a huge eye opener for the broader community and stakeholders who knew that this was a national issue but did not comprehend just how young some of the people living in aged care were,” Senator Siewert said.
“As the chair for this committee, I hope to get to the bottom of why West Australians as young as 23 are being housed in accommodation designed for the elderly because of a lack of specialised care.
“There should be no excuses for the failure to meet the needs of people under 50 with disabilities. We will inquire into the impact of the upcoming National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on this group, accommodation for people with disability is a key part of supporting people with disability and the roll out of the NDIS.
“This inquiry should help us identify just how much funding and what else is needed to provide appropriate housing for young people with a disability who are living in emergency, transitional or aged care accommodation.”
The inquiry’s report is due mid-year and will make specific recommendations to COAG and to the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on the NDIS, which is reviewing the implementation of the NDIS.
The hearing was told that six thousand young Australians with disabilities are living in aged care homes nationally.
Int inquiry has so far received 38 written submissions from individuals, families of people with disabilities and Not for Profit organisations.
The Summer Foundation – an organisation dedicated to stopping young people from being forced to live in nursing homes – said in its written submission that once in a nursing home, young people lose skills and their social networks diminish.
“Most (59 per cent) young people are admitted to an acute or rehabilitation hospital before their first admission to residential aged care (RAC). This suggests that disability services need to partner with health services to develop pathways from hospitals to community living in order to prevent new admissions.
“The disability sector is currently being transformed with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). People under 65 years of age living in RAC are eligible for funding through the NDIS.
The NDIS is one part of the solution to the issue of young people being placed in nursing homes. The NDIS will provide the crucial funding for support that young people in aged care or at risk of entry need to live in the community.
However, the Summer Foundation said, based on current research and experience with previous government programs, most young people in nursing homes will miss out on the NDIS.
“They are unable to initiate and complete the registration process due to their cognitive and communication difficulties,” the submission said.
“They often have no one to advocate on their behalf. There needs to be a national strategy to ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people with disability get equitable access to services funded through the NDIS.
“The NDIS cannot on its own stop the inappropriate placement of young people in RAC. We need to change the system to prevent new admissions. More accessible and affordable housing also needs to be built.
“The NDIS has limited funding for capital to support the development of new housing for young people in nursing homes. Due to the current overall shortage of accessible and affordable housing we do not expect many young people to move out of aged care facilities as a result of the NDIS.
“Solving the issue of young people in RAC on a sustainable basis requires strong Government policy leadership and effective collaboration across many sectors.
“No one sector has the expertise or resources to prevent new admissions of young people to RAC or to develop the range and scale of housing, rehabilitation and ongoing support required for this target group. The complex needs of young people in RAC requires a coordinated approach that involves health, housing and aged care rather than just looking to disability services to solve the issue alone as has happened in the past.”
The National President of Alzheimer’s Australia, Graeme Samuel, told the Senate hearing that early placement into residential care has been clearly identified as a major concern for people with younger onset dementia, their families and carers.
“Residential aged care services are usually an inappropriate environment for supporting a person with younger onset dementia who is often more physically fit and has different interests and social needs than an older cohort,” Samuel said.
“Inappropriate care and lack of social engagement in these settings can lead to poor quality of life and influence the development of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia due to unmet needs.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of appropriate community supports for people with younger onset dementia.”