Authors: Sharon Lawn, Anne Burgess, Ted Lee, John Darley, Duncan McKellar, Richard Bruggemann & Priscilla Taylor
Event: 2023 The MHS conference - Adelaide
Subject: We know best: The forgotten human rights of older people
Type of resource: Video
The Royal Commission into Aged Care, which commenced in 2018, heard many accounts about substandard care and how the system was failing older people. That Royal Commission recommended that “the rights of older people who are seeking or receiving aged care should be enshrined in legislation so as to leave no doubt about the importance placed on these rights”. However, it is unclear whether any progress has been made to ensure the human rights of older people who are among the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those with mental ill-health, dementia or disability.
Through a series of presentations by clinical, lived experience and policy experts, this symposium will highlight the current approaches commonly occurring in aged care homes that results in coercion and control that is not necessarily recognised as either restrictive practice or a breach of human rights. The speakers will share some powerful stories that illustrating these concerns and highlights that, despite the opportunity and impetus to achieve transformation in our systems, we have not progressed as we might have hoped.
This symposium will explore how the human rights of older people, particularly those who experience mental ill-health, continue to be overlooked in aged care. Our panel of speakers will present as follows:
1. Dr Duncan McKellar will set the scene and present the case for why it's important to ensure the human rights of older people. Duncan’s talk - ‘Rights, risks, restrictions and humanity: Narratives from Australian aged care’ – will begin to unpack assumptions about competency, decision-making and so forth that people make, particularly around people in aged care contexts that can impact negatively on older persons’ human rights.
2. Anne Burgess will build on and respond to Dr McKellar’s talk, further discussing what happens to human rights when those assumptions are made, when people's rights are taken away from them and other people start making decisions, and the spiral of responses and behaviours which can then lead to restrictive practices in various forms.
3. Priscilla Taylor will highlight the lived experiences of older people who have been in institutional care in the past, to acknowledge that we must not forget the early trauma that may impact people in aged care. Priscilla’s talk - ‘Safe and Inclusive Care for Older Care Leavers’ - will discuss the impact of abuse, barriers to care, and safe and inclusive care for this group, using examples to highlight their experiences and what can be done to enhance their human rights.
4. Ted Lee’s talk – ‘Protection of the human rights of older people receiving care’ - will discuss the following questions: Has the Royal Commission’s recommendations to protect the human rights of residents in aged care facilities and receiving aged care packages been fully implemented in Commonwealth and complementary State legislation? Is there adequate regulation to prevent the regularising of practices such as the inappropriate prescription of psychotropic medicines? Are there sustainable funding models to ensure human rights is a key determinant in how services and care are delivered?
We will conclude with a Panel in which the speakers will answer questions and engage in discussion with the audience, sharing their thoughts and knowledge about what good practice in delivering human rights for older people looks like.
1. Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (2021) Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect. Volume 1 Summary and recommendations. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-03/final-report-volume-1_0.pdf
2. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) Final Report: Preface and Executive Summary. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/final_report_-_preface_and_executive_summary.pdf