Rape and murder rampant in aged care  

3 September 2020

More than 100 vulnerable elderly Australians are being raped, assaulted and murdered in residential aged care facilities every week. However, a News Corp Aged Care 360 investigation says the real number of victims could be as much as 10 times higher.

The federal health department received 5,233 notifications of assaults that occurred in aged care homes last year - a 30 per cent increase on the previous year, News Corp Australia reports. It included 739 cases of unlawful sexual contact.

But many assaults go unreported and by law aged care homes don’t have to report them if they are carried out by someone with dementia.

In a report for the Federal Government, accounting and auditing firm KPMG estimated the real rate of these incidents was 10 times higher with unreported incidents at 52,000 per year.

News Corp Australia, which publishes The Advertiser, this week launched Aged Care 360 – “a special investigation bringing experts, those on the frontline and the families of those in aged care — together to dissect the sorry mess and offer solutions”.

Monash University’s Head of Health Law and Ageing Research Unit Professor Joseph Ibrahim – who is a member of News Corp’s Aged Care 360 panel – trawled Victoria’s coroner’s data to uncover 28 deaths where people with dementia in facilities became confused and argued with each other – and someone ended up dead.

“Some people were classifying these as homicides but we don’t believe there is intent behind this,” Professor Ibrahim said.

News Corp also reported that a study by Macquarie University’s Dr Kimberley Lind found one in three aged care residents are zoned out on antipsychotics, a form of chemical restraint. And many are physically restrained in chairs using straps or feeding trays.

Aged Care Crisis said “over the years, aged care residents in nursing homes have been raped, robbed, bathed in kerosene, attacked by rodents, suffered injuries or death from other residents, burnt to death, strangled, cooked, melted, sedated to death, overmedicated or choked to death”.

“We have also seen stories of overgrown nails, untreated infections, medication mix-ups, and research showing up to 80 per cent of aged care residents are malnourished and reports of dehydration,” the group told a parliamentary inquiry.

An aged care nurse told News Corp that residents in her facility had maggots in their wounds, their incontinence pads were rationed to three per day and some residents aren’t showered regularly.

Even pain medication is rationed with nurses told to ignore the doctor’s prescription and offer heat packs instead.

One nursing home was so understaffed it was forced to call paramedics in the middle of the night to help with a resident’s catheter as there was no night nurse on duty.

That is just one scandal uncovered by News Corp Australia’s Aged Care 360 panel which yesterday brought together industry experts and families of those impacted by the crisis in aged care.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler told Aged Care 360 the nursing home calling in paramedics was just one example of severe understaffing in the sector.

“There was no registered nurse on the night shift at all, they (paramedics) were called out to deal with a problem that could have been very easily dealt with by a registered nurse,” Ms Butler said.

She said extreme understaffing that sometimes saw one registered nurse caring for 150 patents or no nurse at all was “profoundly unsafe and dangerous”.

Annie Butler will be one of the participants in the aged care discussion at the ANMF (SA Branch) online Annual Professional Conference on October 15.