Mistreatment in aged care


Many of you may have seen the ABC Lateline story two weeks ago with its terrible accounts of abuses and failures in aged care. The Lateline themes are exactly what the Quality Aged Care Action Group (QACAG) has been raising repeatedly:

• lack of staffing: not enough staff overall on shift, not enough qualified staff, including registered nurses, and reliance on care staff who are being required to work beyond their level of training;

• lack of clinical care: poor pain management, wound care, nutrition – which is probably related to a lack of clinically-skilled nursing staff;

• allegations of abusive behaviour and neglect by staff and lack of proper intervention/resolution of these incidents;

• sub-standard quality and amount of food provided in many nursing homes and not enough staff to ensure people receive assistance to eat;

• an accreditation system that appears to focus on adherence to paperwork, rather than measuring hands-on care and the experience of the resident;

• fear of speaking up due to threat or experience of retribution;

• lack of resolution for many residents, relatives and staff who raise these (and other) issues via the facility and/or Complaints Scheme – systematic failure.

You can read QACAG’s response to the Lateline program here.

Meanwhile, it’s important to put the aged first in this discussion and continue to speak up for their rights. The system must provide for safe and compassionate care through enough staff (including enough qualified/trained staff), proper funding and accountability and swift management of abuses and failures in care.

There are thousands of nurses, AiNs and care staff who are dedicated to providing good aged care and who must be supported and valued. Most staff do their best in a climate of under-resourcing. It is important that we look after those staff and do not lose themfrom aged care due to a culture of blame and devaluing. Many nurses, AiNs and care staff feel devastated by this kind of bad publicity.

Here are some of the comments posted on the Nurse Uncut Facebook page after the program was broadcast:

• I have friends who are nurses in aged care and they are brilliant, but I have witnessed with my own eyes the horrible treatment of these beautiful people who shaped our world and future, very rough and unprofessional…

• Unfortunately stories like this will never stop the way aged care is structured and run without huge reforms of staff education and pay rates. Aged care is like a dumping ground for unqualified staff just working for a pay cheque. To deliver true care it must come from the heart. I currently work in aged care, now for over 6 years, and in this short time have seen the downward spiral of quality staff and ratio of staff to client needs. Sometimes I have less than 10 minutes for each client that only receives care once in a 7-hour shift. This is the true reality of aged care and it is a disgrace. Aged care shouldn’t be based on making money, which most facilities are based on, but centres for holistic care which meets the client’s individual needs with dignity and respect.

• You work like a slave for little money looking after society’s most vulnerable and it all comes down to the almighty dollar. Little training for care staff doing things that should be done by the RN who is up to her eyeballs in documentation of the care that should be given but can’t because of the documentation.

• I work in aged care and am also at uni studying for my RN.  I work in a good facility but it all comes down to the dollar.  Call me cynical but if these organisations can cut staff they will. We work flat out all shift.

• How come they never ask the nurse’s side of the story? We just get painted out to be horrible people

• The aged care industry must be made not-for-profit. They should operate to cover costs and maybe a little more. I have been in nursing for over 30 years, mostly in aged care as it suited my family, but the avaricious nursing home owners keep conditions at the bare minimum to protect their “triple bottom line”. If the staff at all levels were respected and treasured for the work they do, then things might improve.

• Not a word about the corporatisation of aged care and how that is fundamentally a far greater crime.

Do you work in aged care? Or do you have experience of aged care through your family or friends? What is your reaction to these reports of mistreatment?

Read more:


Because We Care – the ANMF and NSWNMA aged care nurses campaign.

Impacted Nurse blog also covered the spin-off from the Lateline program.

Previously on Nurse Uncut on the subject of aged care.


  1. If there are staff working in Aged Care facilities doing wrong they should be dealt with appropriately. I am an AIN working in a 120 bed high-care facility. We do the best job we can every day with the staff, time and resources available.
    Aged care is facing many challenges: staffing numbers, skill mix, education and training. We need to see the politicians listen to staff working on the floor. We are not only nurses, we are advocates for staff and residents. We have to deal with families’ concerns and expectations.

  2. I recently resigned as a nurse at a nursing home after twelve months. I tried to make positive changes but the organisation and management were more interested in the bottom line of patient care, even though they advertise otherwise to the general public. Most nursing homes are grossly understaffed even though the staff employed there try so hard to do an excellent job. We need more help to give the care the residents need but they will not be hired because it is all about making money. It is disgraceful! I hope they do something about it, I really do, for the sake of the staff and residents.

  3. I also have been working in aged care for about 40 years as an AIN, EN & RN and no matter what role your in, you are worked to the bone with low wage. Its waste of time trying to change things from ground level as the staff do the best they can in a situation that sometimes is impossible. For instance quite often a resident may have an obsession for the toilet. Therefore, she/he will ring 20 to 30 mins after just being attended to. The carer could be in a room with another resident, which might be down the hallway. This means everything has to stop to run to the person buzzing ( who has just had all cares given to them). If you ask them to wait, its reported “abuse”. This is just one person demanding instant attention. If there happens to be a few, it becomes very difficult & physically draining. All the other residents are also waiting for their needs to be attended to but there are only 2 carers who have to work together most of the time. Night time its usually one carer on each ward. I have been at a facility where on night shift, they often worked one nurse between 2 wards if someone rang in sick. Change has to start at the top which is the owners. It is a corrupt system that the government turn a blind eye to. Stop blaming the staff!


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