Guest post: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2023

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM KC, Aged Care Justice (formerly ALARM) President

In this guest post, Aged Care Justice reveals the types of issues still faced by older Australians in aged care and why we need enforceable rights in the new Aged Care Act.

Improvements to the aged care sector have become a focus for policymakers in 2023 with various reforms being passed by Parliament. The requirement for a registered nurse to be on-site at all times in residential facilities commences this July, an Inspector General of Aged Care has been established to identify and address systemic issues in aged care, and we await the Report of the Capability Review of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Aged Care Justice (ACJ) welcomes the above reforms which seek to implement the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care. However, ACJ Chair, Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM KC warns “As the sector faces new challenges such as workforce shortages, closures of residential facilities and ongoing reports of abuse, mistreatment and neglect, it is evident there is a lot of work to do.”

As our organisation provides aged care residents, home care recipients and their families or friends access to legal services, we are informed of the issues that are experienced by those receiving aged care services. Over the last two months, the types of complaints received by ACJ have involved: wrongful death, whereby negligent care may have caused the death of an aged care resident; abuse of Enduring Power of Attorney and Guardianship powers, where EPAs or Guardians, sometimes with the assistance of aged care providers, act beyond their powers and infringe the rights of the aged care recipient; alleged medical negligence, involving untended wounds or incorrect medication being administered by medical professionals; unreasonable additional service fees included in Residential Agreements.

While policymakers work to improve the sector, it is vital that those receiving aged care services, and their loved ones, have access to legal support if they have experienced substandard care or mistreatment by an aged care provider, so that they understand their individual legal rights and options.

“As the new Aged Care Act is currently being drafted, it is imperative it contains an enforceable rights framework. A Charter of Rights is meaningless without enforceability under the aged care contract, which is something Aged Care Justice has been actively campaigning for, with the support of Rodney Lewis AM, Aged Care Reform Now (ACRN), Older Persons Advocacy Network, (OPAN), Council on the Ageing (COTA), Aged Care Crisis, Allied Aged Care, Carers Circle, among others.”

Now is the time to work together to reshape our aged care system to ensure high-quality care can be delivered and the rights of older people can be protected so they can happily live free from harm.


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