POLITICS

Calls To Make Aged Care, Dying With Dignity A Key Election Issue

'End The Aged Care Lottery' campaign wants more attention on the ageing population.

23/05/2016 4:34 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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While some attention in #AusVotes 2016 has so far been devoted to the issues of young people -- education, university, healthcare, housing -- a campaign launched Monday to shine the spotlight on Australia's ageing population.

The 'Australians Deserve To Age Well' campaign, under the tagline "End The Aged Care Lottery", is an alliance of 48 aged care groups calling on both sides of politics to pledge more funding for seniors and care facilities, with claims that current funding for aged care homes will accommodate only 112 out of every 1000 people over 70 years.

As Australia's population becomes older, faster, this problem is expected to grow. In 2014, there were 3.4 million people over the age of 65, and 456,600 over 85; by 2064, those numbers are predicted to rise to be 9.6 million and 1.9 million respectively. The campaign claimed 25 percent of Australia's population 65 years or older by 2061, with seven percent over 85. By 2050, the campaign claims 3.5 million people will need to use aged care services.

Council of the Ageing (COTA) CEO Ian Yates said policies for Australia's elderly needed to be a priority in this election.

"It is not good enough that thousands of people are forced to wait months and in some cases years to access the level of care and support the Government's own independent assessment says they need," Yates said in a statement.

"We are talking about older, vulnerable Australians, living day-to-day, missing out on showers, daily care visits and family respite. This is not how we should be treating our elderly parents and grandparents."

The campaign released startling figures on Monday, showing what they said were lengthening waiting times for entering care. The group claimed median waiting times for entry into permanent residential care increased from 40 days to 68 days between 2011-12 and 2014-15, while home care waiting times jumped from 44 days to 67 days over the same period.

The campaign launched as Australia marked the beginning of Palliative Care Week, as discussions commence around how to deal with people toward the end of their lives and how Australians can "die with dignity". Professor Rod MacLeod, an international voice in the palliative care sector and a University of Sydney academic, called on the government to kick-start a national conversation on end-of-life options for Australians.

"This important conversation needs to happen now. There are too many misconceptions around palliative care and the choices available. A national conversation would allow us to make better informed choices about the end of life," MacLeod said in a statement.

"The Federal Government should fund a public awareness campaign encouraging people to talk about how they would like to die, which would also lead to a better national dialogue around issues of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide."

The Australians Deserve To Age Well campaign claimed an additional 500,000 aged care workers would be needed by 2050, including in the palliative care sector. The campaign said that only 20 percent of people are able to die at home, despite 75 percent of people wanting to do so, and that while 70 percent of elderly people who die would benefit from palliative care, only around 25 percent of people access such services.

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