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Australia Central Coast aged care homes close their doors, citing resources, 'new quality standards'

12:30  24 october  2019
12:30  24 october  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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The sudden closure of two aged care facilities on the New South Wales Central Coast has renewed concerns about "The new quality standards , the royal commission, staff education and resourcing , and Independent aged care advocacy group Aged Care Crisis said closing homes and forcing

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a man and a woman sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone: Shirley Keenan, pictured here with daughter Leanne Fitzroy, will have to move to a new home after five years in The Orchards dementia unit. (Supplied: Leanne Fitzroy)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Shirley Keenan, pictured here with daughter Leanne Fitzroy, will have to move to a new home after five years in The Orchards dementia unit. (Supplied: Leanne Fitzroy)

The sudden closure of two aged care facilities on the New South Wales Central Coast has shocked a large group of vulnerable older residents and their families and renewed concerns about the financial viability of Australia's private aged care sector.

By the end of the month, one of the region's most established homes, the Henry Kendall aged care facility at Wyoming, along with a dementia unit at The Orchards in Lisarow will both close their doors, affecting more than 80 people.

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The private operators of each facility have cited financial reasons for the closures as well as the ongoing impact of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.

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In correspondence with one affected family, The Orchards operator, the Astoria Group, outlined why its dementia ward will shut down on October 30.

"The new quality standards, the royal commission, staff education and resourcing, and research and advice received with regards to what a well-designed dementia environment looks like," it said.

"For us to be able to provide this in to the future at the high standard that we set for ourselves, we just don't have the resources to be able to do that."

Down the road in Wyoming, operator Allity defended its decision to close the Henry Kendall facility after 34 years because it could no longer be "modified extensively enough to meet the accommodation needs and expectations of residents".

About $2 million was recently spent on improvements to the aged care home, which has been sanctioned for the past six months over a series of non-compliances.

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Five weeks' notice for five-year resident

Residents from both facilities were given five weeks notice to find and move into alternative accommodation with new carers, neighbours and routines.

Leanne Fitzroy's 85-year-old mother, Shirley Keenan, suffers from dementia and has been living in The Orchards' Kumquat dementia ward for the past five years.

Ms Fitzroy said getting news of its unexpected closure was devastating.

"I think it's the hardest thing that a child can do is to put their parent into an aged care facility and when you do, you do it with trust that you think that this facility is going to look after you, and certainly that is what they indicate they're going to do at the time," she said.

"They will bend over backwards to get your money through the door and tell you how wonderful they are but they don't tell you, 'oh well we may close down a ward'.

"Five years ago I had to sell my mother's house and pay a bond to move her into this facility.

"I set it up believing that was going to look after her … I don't know what people do who can't make other arrangements.

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"It has been so distressing."

Traumatic for older people

Independent aged care advocacy group Aged Care Crisis said closing homes and forcing residents to find new accommodation can have serious effects on the elderly.

"These closures have really had a detrimental consequence for frail vulnerable people especially those with dementia or at the end of their lives," spokeswoman Linda Salterelli said.

"Being forced to transfer homes can be quite disorientating and very traumatic at a time when stability and consistency can be really important."

The Central Coast Federal Member for Dobell and Shadow Assistant Minister for Carers Emma McBride said the sector was being starved of resources.

"We have an ageing population on the Central Coast, and we also have a shortage of particularly dementia specific care," Ms McBride said.

"This is a crisis in our community and I don't think the government properly recognises it.

"I don't think they … properly understood the nature or the scale of the problem in regional centres."

Ms Salterelli said the sector needs a complete overhaul.

"I think we really need to bring back community responsibility in aged care," she said.

"I think we've just gone too far down the road of making it into a profitable business and I think at the end of the day caring for our loved ones is a community responsibility, and that is being eroded and removed."

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