Human Rights Approach
to Aged Care

Human Rights

Human Rights Approach to Aged Care

The Need for a Human Rights Approach in Aged Care

The aged care sector in Australia has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years, with continuing reports of elder abuse, neglect, and mistreatment making headlines. This has led to widespread calls for reform and for a greater emphasis on the rights and dignity of older people.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, established by the Australian Government in 2018, highlighted the need for a fundamental overhaul of the aged care system.

The Commission's final report, released in March 2021, called for a significant shift in the way that aged care is delivered in Australia. It recommended a "human rights approach" to aged care, stating that "the care and support provided to older people should be based on human rights principles, with the person's needs, preferences, and goals at the center of care" (Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, 2021).

The report identified a number of key areas where the current aged care system is failing to uphold the rights and dignity of older people.

These include:

  • The lack of choice and control for older people and their families
  • The poor quality of care in many aged care facilities
  • The inadequate training and support for aged care staff
  • The over-reliance on chemical restraints
  • The failure to address elder abuse and mistreatment

A human rights approach to aged care in Australia will address these issues and ensure that the care of older people is based on the principles of choice, dignity, respect, and autonomy.

The Role of the Aged Care Act

The Aged Care Act is the primary piece of legislation governing aged care in Australia. It sets out the rights and responsibilities of aged care providers, residents, and their families. The Act is currently being rewritten with a human rights approach, reflecting the need for a fundamental overhaul of the aged care system.

The new Act will place a greater emphasis on the rights and dignity of older people, and will require aged care providers to take a person-centered approach to care. It will also introduce new measures to improve the quality and safety of aged care services, including a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The rewrite of the Aged Care Act is a critical step towards achieving a human rights approach to aged care in Australia. It will provide a legal framework for ensuring that the care of older people is based on human rights.

Why is a Human Rights Approach Important?

As the Australian population continues to age, ensuring the rights of older people in aged care (residential nursing homes and home-care) becomes increasingly important. A human rights approach to aged care in Australia recognises that every individual has inherent dignity and worth, and that their rights should be protected and upheld at all times. This approach emphasizes the importance of empowering older people to make decisions about their own lives and promoting their independence, while also ensuring that their physical and emotional needs are met.

In this article, we will explore and update the principles of a human rights approach to aged care in Australia, the challenges faced by older people in aged care, and the policies and practices that can help to ensure their rights are protected.

The Human Rights Approach is Evolving

Exploring and introducing new ways to ensure that the elderly receive respectful, dignified care that respects their rights to autonomy, dignity, and inclusion will be an evolving activity. This will involve discussing the current and changing state of aged care in Australia, highlighting the gaps and challenges, and proposing solutions or recommendations to improve the quality of care and uphold the human rights of older people.

Principles of the Human Rights Approach

A human rights approach to aged care is based on a number of key principles.

These include:

Dignity and respect

Every older person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their physical or mental condition. This means that aged care providers must ensure that older people are treated as individuals with their own unique needs and preferences, and that their autonomy and independence are respected.

Autonomy and participation

Older people should have the right to make decisions about their own lives, including decisions about their care and treatment. Aged care providers must ensure that older people are informed about their options and have access to the information and support they need to make informed decisions.

Non-discrimination and equality

Every older person has the right to receive care and support that is free from discrimination and is based on their individual needs and circumstances. Aged care providers must ensure that older people are not discriminated against on the basis of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristic.

Safety and protection

Older people have the right to be safe and protected from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Aged care providers must take appropriate measures to prevent and respond to any incidents of abuse or neglect.

Quality of life

Older people have the right to enjoy a good quality of life, including access to social, cultural, and recreational activities. Aged care providers must promote the social and emotional wellbeing of older people, as well as their physical health.

Challenges in Receiving Quality Aged Care

Despite the principles of a human rights approach to aged care, older people in Australia continue to face a range of challenges in accessing high-quality care and support.

Some of the most common challenges include:

Ageism

Ageism is the stereotyping and discrimination against people on the basis of their age. Ageism can manifest in many ways in aged care, including assumptions that older people are frail, dependent, and unable to make their own decisions.

Lack of autonomy

Many older people in aged care feel that their autonomy and independence are restricted, and that they are not able to make decisions about their own lives. This can lead to feelings of disempowerment and loss of control.

Abuse and neglect

Older people in aged care are at increased risk of abuse and neglect, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse. This can have a significant impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing, and can lead to long-term psychological trauma.

Poor quality of care

Despite efforts to improve the quality of care in aged care facilities, many older people still receive substandard care and support. This can include inadequate staffing levels, poor nutrition, and lack of access to social and recreational activities.

Social isolation

Many older people in aged care experience social isolation and loneliness, which can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

The Importance of Families and Carers in promoting the human rights of older people in aged care.

Families and carers play a vital role in promoting the human rights of older people in aged care. They are often the primary advocates for the older person and can help ensure that their rights are respected and upheld.

Families and carers can act as a source of emotional and social support for older people in aged care. The transition to aged care can be challenging for older people, particularly if they are leaving their homes and social communities. Families and carers can provide comfort and companionship, helping to maintain a sense of social connectedness and prevent loneliness and isolation. This emotional support is essential for maintaining the mental health and well-being of older people in aged care.

Families and carers can help older people to exercise their rights and make decisions about their care. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognises the right of every person to participate in decision-making regarding their health care. This right is particularly important in aged care, where older people may be vulnerable and at risk of having their choices and preferences overlooked. Families and carers can help older people to understand their options and express their wishes, ensuring that their rights are respected and upheld.

Families and carers can provide practical assistance and advocacy for older people in aged care. They can help with tasks such as managing finances, coordinating appointments, and communicating with aged care providers. They can also act as advocates for the older person, ensuring that their needs and preferences are considered when decisions are being made about their care. By advocating for the older person, families and carers can help to ensure that their rights are respected and upheld.

Families and carers can help to monitor and report on the quality of care provided to older people in aged care. They can observe and report on any signs of neglect or abuse and work with aged care providers to address any issues that arise. By monitoring and reporting on the quality of care, families and carers can help to ensure that older people in aged care receive safe and high-quality care that respects their rights and dignity.

In conclusion, families and carers play a vital role in promoting the human rights of older people in aged care. They provide emotional and social support, help older people to exercise their rights and make decisions about their care, provide practical assistance and advocacy, and monitor and report on the quality of care provided.

Aged care providers must recognise and value the important contributions of families and carers in promoting the human rights of older people. By working in partnership with families and carers, aged care providers can help to create a more inclusive and respectful aged care sector that values the contributions of all stakeholders.

Workforce Training and Development to support a human rights-based approach in aged care.

The aged care workforce plays a crucial role in ensuring that older people in aged care receive care that respects their human rights. Workforce training and development are essential to support a human rights-based approach in aged care.

Workforce training and development can help aged care workers to understand the human rights of older people and how to apply them in practice. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognises the right of every person to be treated with dignity and respect. In aged care, this means that older people have the right to receive care that respects their dignity, privacy, and autonomy. Aged care workers need to understand these rights and how to apply them in practice to ensure that older people receive care that is respectful and promotes their well-being.

Workforce training and development can help aged care workers to develop the skills and knowledge needed to provide person-centred care. Person-centred care is an approach that places the older person at the centre of care and focuses on meeting their individual needs and preferences. This approach is essential to ensure that older people receive care that is tailored to their specific needs and respects their individuality. Aged care workers need to develop the skills and knowledge to provide person-centred care, including communication skills, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of the older person's social and cultural background.

Workforce training and development can help aged care workers to develop the skills and knowledge needed to provide care that promotes the well-being of older people. The aged care workforce must have the skills and knowledge to provide care that promotes the physical, emotional, and social well-being of older people. This includes skills such as medication management, wound care, and falls prevention, as well as an understanding of the importance of social and recreational activities in promoting the well-being of older people.

Workforce training and development can help aged care workers to understand the importance of human rights in preventing and addressing elder abuse. Elder abuse is a serious issue in aged care and can take many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. Aged care workers need to understand the signs of elder abuse and how to prevent and address it. They also need to understand the importance of human rights in preventing elder abuse and ensuring that older people receive care that is respectful and free from abuse and neglect.

In conclusion, workforce training and development are essential to support a human rights-based approach in aged care. Aged care workers must have the skills and knowledge needed to understand the human rights of older people, provide person-centred care, promote the well-being of older people, and prevent and address elder abuse. Aged care providers must prioritise workforce training and development to ensure that aged care workers have the skills and knowledge needed to provide care that respects the human rights of older people. By investing in workforce training and development, aged care providers can create a more inclusive and respectful aged care sector that values the contributions of all stakeholders.

Elder Abuse and Neglect in aged care facilities and the human rights of older people to safety and protection.

Elder abuse and neglect are serious issues that affect the human rights of older people in aged care facilities. It is a violation of their fundamental human right to safety, protection, and dignity. Elder abuse and neglect can take many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. Addressing elder abuse and neglect is essential to ensure that older people in aged care facilities receive care that respects their human rights to safety and protection.

The human rights of older people to safety and protection are enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). These documents recognise the right of every person to be free from all forms of abuse and neglect, including older people. The aged care sector has a responsibility to ensure that these human rights are respected and upheld for all older people in their care.

There are many reasons why elder abuse and neglect occur in aged care facilities. These include a lack of staff training and support, inadequate staffing levels, and a lack of regulation and oversight. Addressing these issues is essential to prevent elder abuse and neglect and ensure that older people in aged care facilities receive care that is safe and respectful of their human rights.

One way to address elder abuse and neglect is to increase staff training and support. Aged care workers need to understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect and how to prevent and address it. They also need to be provided with ongoing training and support to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills needed to provide care that is respectful and free from abuse and neglect. Investing in staff training and support is an essential step towards preventing elder abuse and neglect in aged care facilities.

Another way to address elder abuse and neglect is to increase regulation and oversight of the aged care sector. Aged care facilities must be held accountable for providing care that respects the human rights of older people to safety and protection. This includes regular inspections and monitoring of facilities to ensure that they are providing care that is safe, respectful, and free from abuse and neglect. Governments must also ensure that there are adequate laws and regulations in place to protect the human rights of older people in aged care facilities.

In conclusion, addressing elder abuse and neglect in aged care facilities is essential to ensure that older people receive care that respects their human rights to safety and protection. Aged care providers must prioritise staff training and support and increase regulation and oversight of the sector to prevent elder abuse and neglect. Governments must also ensure that there are adequate laws and regulations in place to protect the human rights of older people in aged care facilities. By working together, we can create a more inclusive and respectful aged care sector that upholds the human rights of all older people in their care.

Culturally Appropriate care and the human rights of older people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Culturally appropriate care is an essential component of aged care services, particularly for older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. It refers to the provision of care that is sensitive and responsive to the unique cultural needs and preferences of the individual. Cultural diversity is a significant feature of Australian society, and aged care services must be designed to meet the needs of people from different cultural backgrounds. In this article, we will discuss the importance of culturally appropriate care and the rights of older people from diverse cultural backgrounds in aged care.

It is important to recognise that cultural diversity plays a vital role in shaping a person's identity, values, and beliefs. Older people from diverse cultural backgrounds may have unique perspectives on health, aging, and care, which are informed by their cultural experiences and traditions. For instance, in some cultures, it is customary for children to take care of their aging parents, while in others, the responsibility may fall on other family members or the wider community. Therefore, to provide effective care, aged care providers need to understand and respect these cultural differences and tailor their services to meet the needs of the individual.

Culturally appropriate care is crucial for maintaining the dignity and well-being of older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Older people who receive care that is not culturally appropriate may feel marginalised or excluded, leading to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. By contrast, culturally appropriate care can help promote a sense of belonging and social connectedness, which are essential factors for maintaining good mental health and well-being in older people.

Culturally appropriate care is essential for ensuring that older people from diverse cultural backgrounds have equal access to aged care services. In Australia, older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) are among the most vulnerable groups in society. They may face barriers to accessing care, including language barriers, a lack of knowledge about available services, and cultural misunderstandings. As a result, they may be at risk of not receiving the care they need or receiving inadequate care. Culturally appropriate care can help to address these barriers and ensure that older people from CALD backgrounds receive the same quality of care as other Australians.

Providing culturally appropriate care is a fundamental human right for older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognises the right of every person to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This right includes the right to access health care services that are culturally appropriate and respectful of the person's cultural and linguistic identity. By providing culturally appropriate care, aged care providers are fulfilling their obligations under international human rights law and promoting the dignity and well-being of older people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

In conclusion, culturally appropriate care is an essential component of aged care services, particularly for older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. It is essential for maintaining the dignity and well-being of older people, ensuring equal access to aged care services, and promoting human rights. Aged care providers must recognise the importance of cultural diversity and tailor their services to meet the unique needs and preferences of everyone. By doing so, they can help to create a more inclusive and respectful aged care sector that values the cultural diversity of all Australians.

The New Human Rights Aged Care Act

The new Aged Care Act is being developed based upon Human Rights and we will have updates when the document is available.


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