100 assaults a week: Aged care abuse kept secret
Exclusive: Abuse of elderly nursing home residents will be kept secret for up to a month under new laws forcing operators to report all assaults and neglect to the aged care watchdog.
More than 100 residents are being assaulted or sexually abused in nursing homes every week, based on aged care operators' own reports to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC).
The Royal Commission into Aged Care, which delivered its report to the Federal Government on Friday, has warned that the real rate of abuse is likely to be eight times higher.
Under current laws, aged care operators do not have to report assaults by residents with mental impairments such as dementia.
In a crackdown on abuse, the Federal Government will introduce new laws forcing aged care homes to report all types abuse - including attacks between residents - from April 1.
But in fresh advice to aged care operators, ACQSC has revealed that not all abuse must be reported immediately.
It says "priority one incidents'' must be reported within 24 hours of a nursing home becoming aware of a death, head injury, bruising, cuts, burns or broken bones requiring medical treatment.
But other abuse, classified as "priority two incidents,'' will not have to be reported to the ACQSC for up to 30 days.
"Examples of low impact may include where the consumer experiences temporary redness or marks that do not bruise … (or) where the consumer is momentarily shaken or upset,'' the ACQSC says in a new series of "frequently asked questions'' for nursing homes.
The new laws will force nursing homes to report all cases of "rough handling,'' as well as psychological or emotional abuse including yelling, name calling, ignoring a resident or making "threatening gestures".
All cases of neglect - including untreated wounds, withholding personal care or failing to help residents eat meals - must also be reported.
ACQSC fielded 4867 reports of assaults and 816 allegations of unlawful sexual contact against nursing home residents in 2019/20.
The Royal Commission will make dozens of recommendations for radical reform of a "cruel and shameful'' system, in a report more than 1000 pages long.
In their final submission, counsel assisting the Royal Commission warned that "abuse remains rife in residential aged care''.
They cited KPMG estimates that nearly 40,000 assaults and 1730 sexual assaults go unreported each year because existing rules do not require them to be reported to police or the aged care watchdog.
"The Royal Commission has received many disturbing accounts raising allegations of abuse of people living in residential aged care at the hands of caregivers and fellow residents,'' their submission states.
"This is a national shame.''
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reading the damning final report this weekend, before making it public this week.
To report abuse: www.agecarequality.gov.au, 1800 951 822
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Originally published as 100 assaults a week: Aged care abuse kept secret