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Craig Gear OAM: “The New Human Rights-Based Aged Care Act Will Form the Bedrock of Change.”

20 Aug 2021, by Skye Rytenskild

Craig Gear OAM is CEO of the Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN), an organisation funded by the Australian Government to deliver the National Aged Care Advocacy Program. OPAN helps older people receiving aged care in their own home, the community or aged care homes to understand their rights and get the best experience out of aged care by resolving any issues.

Craig will be speaking at the National Dementia & Aged Care Reform Conference, 23 – 25 November 2021, and is passionate about enhancing the quality of life for older Australians through a person-centred approach. “It makes sense that we would work to ensure those who support and care for us throughout our lives are supported and cared for in return when they age.”

Putting Rights in the Hands of the Individual

Craig says that the recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission set out a framework which, when fully implemented, will drive transformation that older people across the country have been advocating for over the past few decades.

“Older people in the community and members of our National Older Persons Reference Group want to see the sector prioritise a person-centred care model, an Aged Care Act that protects and upholds their rights and standards of care, that will improve the aged care experience for everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status.”

“The budget and the government’s response to the Royal Commission will provide the building blocks to reorientate aged care’s focus back on the older person, with care levels and access to aged care truly meeting the needs and desires of older people.  But there is a long road ahead, and we’re only just getting started.”

Dementia Care: The Importance of a Human Rights Model Over a Transactional One

“If care is person centred, if there is adequate time to deliver care, if staff have the right training and supports, then good dementia care is possible,” says Craig.

However, he also underlines that it won’t be exceptional dementia care unless those supporting someone living with dementia also have their wishes, preferences, and human rights at the core of every interaction and care opportunity they provide.

“I truly believe that unless we move from a transactional model of aged and dementia care to a human rights and person-centred care model, we are not going to see the transformation that we need.  The new human rights based Aged Care Act will form the bedrock of that change.”

Supporting People with Younger Onset Dementia in Exercising Choice

Craig says that the ability to receive care at home, delivered by highly trained and well-paid staff, all competent in dementia care, will see people with younger onset dementia able to exercise their choice to remain at home.

“The timely access to care at home, at levels comparable to assessed need, was supported by the Royal Commission,” says Craig. “Embedding the needs of people with younger onset dementia in the design of the new Care at Home program to be rolled out from 2023 is key.”

Craig will be chairing a panel at the National Dementia & Aged Care Reform Conference in November on Aged Care Reform, in conversation with members of the National Older Persons Reference Group.

He underscores the fundamental importance of having older people as part of the decision-making process, on a wide scale.

“Aged care services cater to the individual needs of older people, whether they’re ageing in their own home in the community or an aged care home.

“The aged care sector is built for older people, so it should proactively take its direction first and foremost from them to ensure it meets their needs and provides the highest-quality services and experiences possible. As my fellow panel members continue to tell me: “Nothing about US – without US!

The Joyous Possibilities of Intergenerational Care

Intergenerational care has also been climbing up the aged care agenda. Earlier this year, OPAN worked with the ABC as the impact partner on the second season of Emmy-winning television series ‘Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds’, a social experiment that demonstrates the evident health and developmental benefits to older and younger people when together.

These intergenerational models not only deliver joy, in relation to functional improvement and psychological wellbeing, frankly, they just work!” says Craig. “As part of that partnership, we ran an initiative linking older people to support services to enable their active engagement in their community and maintain their individuality and independence at home.”

OPAN have since heard positive stories from schools across Australia that are trialling an intergenerational model with older people in their community and success stories of people engaging with the Community Visitors Scheme.

“These sorts of programs sew supportive and valuable connections in our communities and are an enriching experience for people of different generations, which we fully support. We want to see these models go viral (in the best sense of the phrase)!”

Don’t miss Craig Gear OAM speaking on a person-centred approach to aged care at the National Dementia & Aged Care Reform conference, 23 – 35 November 2021 in Melbourne.

If you or an older person you know seek support to address concerns with your aged care, call the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600.

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