26 February 2021

Carers and nurses speak out about "awful" conditions in aged care

As the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety prepares to hand down its final report, aged care nurses and people with loved ones in aged care homes are speaking out about the appalling conditions they have encountered in the system.

More than 500 people contacted GetUp with their experiences dealing with the aged care industry. What they shared was heartbreaking — stories of people going days without food, sanitation or medical care; residents being served expired and rotting food; nurses and staff trying to provide quality care in a system that sets them up to fail.

They’re speaking out to tell Parliament how dire the systemic problems in aged care have become, and how desperately the sector needs reform. 

GetUp National Director Paul Oosting said:

“I applaud all those who’ve come forward and spoken out. It takes a lot of guts for someone to do that, and it can be a very daunting experience. The fact that more than 500 people contacted GetUp to share their experiences of the aged care system shows how bad the situation is, and how desperately the sector needs major reform.

“After years of successive governments neglecting and defunding our aged care sector, pushing it into the hands of greedy corporate providers, thousands of Australians have horror stories of their own. It’s become an all-too-common hallmark of a sector that’s supposed to take care of people in need.

“Over the coming months GetUp members will be watching how Morrison responds to the Royal Commission. They want to see real reform – including fixing the staffing crisis and ensuring transparency in funding. They’ll be looking out for empty promises or budget announcements that gloss over the systemic issues within aged care. 

“Prime Minister Morrison must seize this moment and make reform of the aged-care sector a top priority. We can’t afford to let this shameful neglect of aged care residents go on any longer.”

Suzanna, an aged care nurse in New South Wales, said:

“I am a registered nurse of over 40 years. The system has been woeful for all and more of that time.

“The main problem is federal governments, past and present, giving large amounts of money to private operators and not overseeing where that money is actually spent. Private concerns do not and have never had rigorous standards that are actually maintained.

“I’ve seen awful things in my time working for private providers. Staff writing things down on paper, with no random visual checks and audits; staff tying up and medicating residents; giving them rotting food; not providing the basics for nurses to care for people; and stretching the workloads so as to create more and more profits, leaving our vulnerable elderly abused.

“A family friend told me she was afraid of more than half of her carers in a so-called ‘good’ nursing home. She made the decision to die rather than get more ‘care’ at the hands of a system that left her neglected, abused and isolated. This was just before the Covid 19 pandemic.

“I am deeply distressed by the thought that none of us, her family and friends, could make her last days as fear-free and caring as they should have been.

“When I was training to be a nurse, I was charged with making the system better. But no one nurse can solve these problems.

“I believe that after the Royal Commission, the Federal Government and aged care departments across the country need to enact proper staffing, less rorting of aged care subsidies, and provide better and safer care for our elderly population.”

Wendy, daughter of an aged care resident in regional Victoria, said:

“My mother is in a very well-run facility in a regional town. Two staff contracted COVID-19 which resulted in the residents spending six weeks in isolation in their rooms. There were no deaths but the mental health of the residents, including my mother, has suffered. 

“This is the general problem facing aged care. While the staff at my mother’s home do their best in regard to physical care, endless games of bingo passing for entertainment and stimulation is very clearly inadequate. My mother does not play bingo, so she spends long periods alone in her room. Like most residents, she is very depressed. 

“It is the same in almost all homes. This is definitely not good enough!”

Media contact: Alex McKinnon 0411 829 334


Paul Oosting, National Director at GetUp
Suzanna, NSW aged care nurse
Wendy, Victorian daughter of an aged care resident