Newcastle lawyer Catherine Henry urges federal government to 'be brave' in wake of landmark elderly abuse report

A LEADING Newcastle lawyer has urged the federal government to “be brave” and adopt the recommendations of a landmark report into the financial and physical abuse of the elderly.

The report – which was handed down by the Australian Law Reform Commission this week – contained 43 recommendations aimed at better protecting the elderly from misuse and abuse, as well as safeguarding their autonomy.

Among the recommendations were improved responses to elder abuse in residential aged care; protecting the elderly when “assets in care” arrangements go wrong; and empowering banks and financial institutions to protect vulnerable customers from abuse.

Catherine Henry is the solicitor representing families suing the SummitCare nursing home in Wallsend over alleged negligence.

Ms Henry welcomed the report and urged the federal government to take action on the recommendations.

She singled out nurse-to-patient ratios in aged-care facilities as an area ripe for reform.

The Law Reform Commission report was critical of an increasing reliance on assistants in nursing, compared with a decreasing proportion of registered and enrolled nurses, which complete a higher level of training.

It recommended the Department of Health determine “optimal staffing models and levels” in aged care, while bench-marking it against legislative standards.

“The fact that there are no laws in place regarding the ratio of staff to patients in these facilities is far from acceptable – we wouldn’t accept this in a child-care centre or indeed in any other facility where dependent individuals are cared for,” Ms Henry said.

Ms Henry added there was a “clear link” between lack of training in aged-care centres and inadequate treatment of the elderly.

“The quality of care in the cases we have been involved in demonstrate the clear link between lack of training and experience and appalling, indefensible care of the vulnerable aged,” Ms Henry said.

“Hopefully the federal government will be brave enough to act on these important recommendations.”