A report released in Queensland this month revealed that conditions in aged care facilities had drastically deteriorated. The report detailed several cases of neglect, abuse and violence perpetrated on elderly residents in aged care facilities. In a similar vein, the NSW government is working with other state attorneys to address the rise in elder abuse in a national plan to create key policies and laws to protect our nation’s elderly population.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 6 elderly people are likely to suffer some form of abuse, be it psychological, financial or physical. In 2011, aged care nurse Roger Dean set fire to the Quakers Hill residence he was working in, killing 14 people. In 2016, Garry Davis murdered several residents of a Newcastle nursing home. In 2017 it was reported that some men and women were being killed by other nursing home residents, many of the perpetrators having suffered from dementia.
Elderly abuse and violence towards the aged is particularly common in nursing homes – where residents are often vulnerable and isolated. Creating safe and secure environments for the elderly is as important as securing our school and hospitals.
Security issues for residents in an aged care home revolve mostly on the hiring and management of trustworthy staff but also in managing abrupt violence from the residents themselves. The physical and psychological security needs of elderly patients are quite specific and at time complex and care should be taken to ensure adequate support is in place.
Steps for ensuring the safety of the aged are outlined below:
Secure staff hiring – Aged care security should be considered as a separate element of care and planning when managing these facilities. It is not enough to hire qualified staff. It is vital to implement safeguard policies that prevent staff from getting frustrated (and possibly taking it out of residents), burning out or worse engaging in deliberate predatory and violent behaviour.
Effective self-care policy and regular evaluation is vital to prevent nurses and carers from abusing their charges. Thorough background checks are important, it is also important to implement policies that allow residents to seek help independently from staff. As an example, the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline has been receiving an increase of calls and complaints since its inception in 2013.
Manage the uncertainty of aging – From weaker joints, sensitivity to changing environments and psychological issues, aged care facilities are supposed to be safe places for the elderly. Aged care homes are environments that reduce the risks of harm and insecurity that often occur from living at home, sometimes alone or unsupervised.
It is surprising to hear that several deaths of elderly patients occur at the hands of other fellow residents, but the likelihood should be treated as a reality. Dementia is unpredictable and hard to manage. It is even harder to manage without interrupting the normalcy of residents interacting with each other on a daily basis.
Living in close proximity in aged cared home environments can create complicated and volatile emotional situations. Like with hospital security policies, it is important to keep nurses and staff safe from residents as well.
Security in aged care facilities does differ from the kind of security planning required for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Aged care residents are vulnerable, but capable of voicing their concerns when required. Relationships and inter-personal dynamics in aged care home facilities can be far more intimate which can lead to volatility and uncertainty. This is especially true when mental health and poor employee management come into the mix.
As with any good risk and security policy, holistic avenues for appropriate communication and regular assessment should be a regular feature in aged care home environments.
Agilient is able to assist all manner of health related organisations including aged care environments with both security and risk managment so please do not hestiate to contact us.
The Agilient Team