Having written here previously about the Royal Commission into Aged Care, I was interested to hear what Scott Morrison had to say on Monday when his government began laying out a formal policy response. The headline announcement was an additional $537 million for the sector. That will fund 10,000 new home-care packages and a national overhaul of medication management. The Prime Minister said more changes and money are on the way. Just how much money is needed to adhere to the Commission’s entire wish-list hasn’t filtered through to public understanding. Leaving aside for a moment the elderly themselves, several thousand houses will have to be built to remove all younger people from aged care. For now, the most noticeable improvements for old people in “homes” will come not from boosted funding but from salutary trepidation in the ranks of managers and staff. Most of them are not deserving of obloquy but could profit by a renewed sense of connection, shall we say, to enlivened protocols of accountability. Yes, I do mean they’re now being watched.
Prioritising home-care is an admission of sorts that institutionalising the elderly is the ultimate cause of the “unkind and uncaring” treatment condemned by the Royal Commission. An admission of sorts, however, is not the same thing as facing the truth. As I’ve argued previously, we as a culture are responsible for neglecting the aged. Mr Morrison should have the courage to say the Commission erred in blaming “the system.”
About 120,000 people are waiting for home-care packages. Funding them will cost $2.5 billion. You don’t have to be as brutal as David Leyonhjelm to see that figure as pie in the sky. Labor’s aged care spokeswoman, Julie Collins, is up for it, though. She described the Prime Minister’s program as a “drop in the ocean” and accused him of procrastinating as 300 frail citizens per week die “without their home care package.” It was inevitable politicians would reduce this dolor to dollars and its remedy to recidivism. There is somebody to ‘get’ for this, after all: whoever is spending less than you promise to do. Blame them. How many of those 300 have struggled without their familys’ help? That’s a far more important and confronting question. Even a potentially tectonic one, to use a word beloved of this country’s bunyip Metternichs when they discuss foreign policy. The fundamental crisis in the West is at the heart of the aged care question also. Today, greater love hath no man than this: that he demands the state lay down money for his friends. And his parents.