The ABC's Lateline program last night ran a shocking story about Elder Abuse in Australian nursing homes. Whilst the Federal Minister, Jacinta Collins MP rightly observed that these cases are a small minority of issues given the numbers of Australians in such care, she also did not shy away from the serious nature of these issues.
We should be outraged that such abuse can occur in what is, after all, a supposedly tightly regulated system. We should also be outraged that any Australian could be subject to such lack of care, but especially our elders, for whom nothing should be too much trouble.
From the program it is obvious that the abuses were not restricted to those residents who did not have regular family visitors as one might expect (given the sad reality that such people would likely have no one to advocate for them). No, the examples show that even families raising concerns about care (or lack of) were subject to abuse.
This matter needs to be brought into the light via an inquiry - it cannot be left unchallenged. One cannot truly know what such an inquiry would find as the root causes, but we must also look beyond the individual cases and review the entire system - including the vexing question of funding and staffing.
It is said that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease and I can't help but think that the provision of aged care services is somehow seen as a begrudging obligation (to those who don't have much of a voice in the public square) rather than an opportunity for compassionate care and the building of social capital through our approach to such care.
And for those who are tempted to piggy-back a 'that's-why-we-need-euthanasia' argument on this tragic story, think again. This is no more an argument for euthanasia than would be raising the speed limits because some people break the road rules.
No, its a matter of having the courage to face the challenge head on; thinking outside the square and re-visioning the system. We need only look to the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to see what can happen when people bang their heads together for a while striving for change.
Can this be done? Of course it can. Sad to say that such tragic circumstances seem to be needed to drive such change; but, at the same time, we should not let this opportunity pass with only hand-wringing and the rolling of heads.