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Aged care prepares for Forgotten Australians

DOHA updating residential managers and staff, and assessors, to respond more sensitively to the needs of Forgotten Australians. By Darragh O Keeffe

Nurses in aged care are to be educated on the needs of Forgotten Australians, with education pack detailing the special needs of this group to be sent to all aged care providers from August this year.

The pack is in recognition that many Forgotten Australians are nearing an age where they will soon require residential care, but given their past experiences, many are reluctant to enter the system.
Forgotten Australians include former child migrants, people from the Stolen Generations and those who were in institutional care. A senate inquiry report in 2009 estimated 20 per cent of them had experienced sexual abuse; however the report noted the various other trauma and abuse many had experienced.

The recent Aged and Community Services WA and Alzheimer’s Australia WA joint conference in Perth was told that, many Forgotten Australians had “lifelong learning and health problems”.

The new education packs, which targeted everyone from CEOs to kitchen staff, were one part of the government’s attempts to provide appropriate aged care for the special group, said Sue Thomas of the Department of Health and Ageing.

Thomas told the conference that ‘care leavers’ had also been recognised as a special group in the Aged Care Act.

Given their distrust and fear of institutionalized care, DOHA was also in the process of updating the ACAT training manual, based on the new educational resource, so assessors can sensitively respond to Forgotten Australians, she said.

“The [senate] report detailed the challenges for assessors,” said Thomas.

“Many Forgotten Australians fear being judged, being forced to leave their home against their will, losing their privacy; or losing control. Assessors need to establish a good rapport, based on trust, before personal questions can be asked,” she said.

The education package was developed in consultation with Forgotten Australians, care-leavers, former child migrants, support groups, aged care providers and peak bodies.

Thomas said the consultations showed almost all aged care providers reported limited knowledge of Forgotten Australians, and agreed they would benefit from further information.

The education pack will detail the history and experiences of Forgotten Australians, triggers that might cause them distress, potential reactions to these triggers, and how services can respond sensitively to their special needs.

Thomas outlined the triggers as experiencing coldness; communal showering; darkness, locked doors; belongings being taken; physical contact; the smell or urine; bullying or yelling.

However, Forgotten Australians react to these triggers in different ways; such as by cowering, crying, withdrawing, becoming aggressive or refusing to participate in activities.

Thomas said a production company had been engaged to write, design and produce the education package, which will be distributed to providers and peak bodies from August. It will include a letter for management detailing the changes to the legislation, as well as the information brochure. A poster, power point presentation and DVD will also be included.

Responding to questions from conference attendees, Thomas confirmed there would be no allocation of funding for training purposes. The intention was that the pack would be used by providers in the course of their normal staff training procedures.

When asked about whether a community care version was in train, Thomas said the major concern for Forgotten Australians was residential care. However, she said the package could be used by community care staff nonetheless.

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