Aged care residents drugged up on opioids

 

One in every three aged care residents is a chronic user of opioid drugs and one in four are doped on antipsychotics, a damning report by the Aged Care Royal Commission has found.

The heavy drugging of residents was revealed in a comprehensive analysis which found for-profit aged care homes scored the lowest on almost every one of 34 quality indicators.

It comes after a major News Corp investigation into aged care revealed nearly 100 aged care residents are being raped, murdered and assaulted every week, homes are drastically understaffed, incontinence pads are rationed and residents are ejected from homes if they complain about the food.

We found it is almost impossible for families moving a loved one into aged care to determine the quality of the care offered by facilities.

Government-run nursing homes had the best average quality of care on many indications. Picture: iStock
Government-run nursing homes had the best average quality of care on many indications. Picture: iStock


The Royal Commission asked researchers to investigate the quality of care being delivered by collating data from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission's, Consumer Experience Interviews, reports on assaults and missing residents and other reports to the government.

They found government run nursing homes had the best average quality of care on 31 of the indicators.

Residents in government homes were offered three times more attention from nursing staff each day, received more direct care, had fewer falls, fractures, medication errors, pressure sores, weight loss and premature deaths that residents in for profit or not for profit homes.

Not for profit homes had stronger average results than for-profit facilities on 25 indicators

"For-profit facilities returned the best result on 1 indicator …. not-for-profit facilities returned the best result on 2 indicators" the report reveals.

Around 57 per cent of aged care facilities in Australia are operated by not-for-profit organisations, 34 per cent are operated by for-profit organisations, and just 9 per cent are operated by Government organisations.

The report shows staggeringly high use of antipsychotics and addictive opioids in aged care homes.

The only measure where for profit homes scored marginally better was in chronic opioid use.

Only 1 in every 3.6 residents in for profit homes used the drugs compared to 1 in 3.4 in not for profit homes and 1 in 3 in government run homes.

Not for profit homes scored marginally best for antipsychotic use only 1 in 4.5 residents used the drugs compared to 1 in 4.3 in for profit homes and 1 in 4 in government homes.

The report shows staggeringly high use of anti-psychotics and addictive opioids in aged care homes. Picture: iStock
The report shows staggeringly high use of anti-psychotics and addictive opioids in aged care homes. Picture: iStock


The number of age care residents who attended hospital emergency departments and had a pressure sore injury reported was twice as high in for profit and not for profit homes as government homes.

Residents of for profit and not for profit homes were four times more likely to have hospital emergency departments report their residents suffered from malnutrition and weight loss than government homes.

For profit homes had the highest number of resident complaints and were more likely to be found non-compliant with quality standards (18 per cent compared to 16 per cent for not for profit homes and 13 per cent for government homes)

Residents received 119 minutes of care from nurses every day in government homes compared to just 39 minutes a day if for profit and not for profit homes.

Assaults were also higher in for profit homes 3 assaults for every 100 beds compared to 2.62 in not for profit homes and 2.95 in government run homes.

The report does not provide the information at an individual provider level only by sector.

National Seniors spokesman Ian Henschke said the research showed the better staffing ratios in government run centres helped improve the quality of care.

"If you have better staffing you get better results," he said.

Many of the government run homes were attached to regional hospitals and it showed how outcomes were better when you treated aged care as a health issue rather than pretended it was more like a boarding school, he said.

Most people were in aged care because they had serious and often multiple health conditions

and ensuring they got access to more time with properly qualified staff like nurses ensured they received better outcomes, he said.

"What we've been saying is clearly having a well trained workforce is essential to provide what Scott Morrison said would restore faith in the system," he said.

Originally published as Aged care residents drugged up on opioids


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