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Concern Over Phone Access in Aged Care Homes

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

In-room phones for aged care residents must urgently be provided, say Advocacy Tasmania (AT), if we are serious about addressing the growing isolation and depression experienced by older Tasmanians in aged care homes. The issue being raised that is that as phones are not standard, not all aged care residents have them. “The elderly give […]

In-room phones for aged care residents must urgently be provided, say Advocacy Tasmania (AT), if we are serious about addressing the growing isolation and depression experienced by older Tasmanians in aged care homes.

The issue being raised that is that as phones are not standard, not all aged care residents have them.

“The elderly give up so much when they move into aged care homes and a basic in-room phone should be standard for each and every resident,” said AT Chief Executive Officer Leanne Groombridge. “Understandably, COVID-19 is a very real concern and extra safety measures are needed. But it must not be a catch-all justification for depriving older Tasmanians of their rights and the necessities of living in 2020 and a phone is very much a necessity. To have no access to make a private call to loved ones or to contact essential support services is shameful,” she said.

Groombridge said AT had heard first-hand the distressing stories arising from residential aged care where residents remain socially isolated. “They tell us they feel imprisoned and many have given up,” Groombridge said.

She labelled it ‘unbelievable’ to have a situation where only those that can afford it are able to stay connected or be able to contact the outside world for help when they most need it.

“Why has government funded older persons’ Helplines and services when so many in aged care homes cannot even make a private call or receive a call back from those services?”

Madeleine Ogilvie, independent MHA for Clark, called for the state government to ensure that all aged care residents had a private telephone.

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“Today I asked the Premier to commit to ensuring that all aged care residents have access to a telephone in their rooms,” said Ogilvie. “I am aware that there is a significant lack of consistency when it comes to the provision of telephones to Tasmanians in aged care homes. This is an issue of equity, it is a question of closing the digital divide.”

She said all Tasmanians should have the communication tools they need to ‘live a full and robust life’.

“Advocacy Tasmania estimates that 40% of the older people they work with do not have access to a private telephone. This is not good enough; as a community we need to do better,” stated Ogilivie. “The Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council highlighted the importance of digital inclusion and equity. This is a critical issue about autonomy, safety, and as we know communication is the antidote to loneliness.”

TT understands that Premier Peter Gutwein has undertaken to look into the issue.

AT says that research by Primary Health Tasmania has shown that older Tasmanians living in residential aged care homes are five times more likely to develop a mental illness than those living independently, with this data collected pre COVID-19.

“Psychological distress, anxiety and depression are all highly prevalent in these environments, with 49% of people in aged care homes in 2019 being diagnosed with depression,” said CEO Groombridge.  “It’s hardly surprising as the transition to residential aged care often moves people away from their homes, family and friends…this results in a loss of independence and causes drastic changes to their lives.”

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“By failing to acknowledge and work to help negate the impact that this has on their mental health, older people become very vulnerable to the risk factors associated with mental illnesses. Now, these residents are experiencing extreme social isolation due to COVID-19 and have lost the connection to family and friends, something we all need to maintain our mental wellbeing.”

Groombridge said her organisation was grateful to Madeleine Ogilvie for raising this issue.

“(Federal) Minister Colbeck who has responsibility for aged care has said that residents can have a phone if they pay for it,” she said. “Sadly, so many cannot afford to do so and they’re really suffering.  It would seem that older Tasmanians must now turn to Premier Gutwein for help given that the Commonwealth has abandoned them.”

Shadow Minister for Ageing Jo Siejka it was ‘deeply disturbing’ that thousands of vulnerable older Tasmanians in aged care are being put at risk of elder abuse.

“Concerns about their isolation and lack of access to support services during COVID have been raised directly with Premier Peter Gutwein,” she said. “Advocacy Tasmania has provided the Premier with a list of practical measures that could be put in place immediately to address these concerns.”

“But despite claiming the safety and welfare of older Tasmanians is his primary concern during the pandemic, the Premier continues to disregard these calls.”

Source: Tasmanian Times https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/09/concern-aged-care-phone-access/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=concern-aged-care-phone-access

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