Partially because of all of the media coverage regarding Aveo, and partially to satisfy my Office Manager, so she will stop clogging up my inbox with articles, I have decided to weigh in on the current debate surrounding Aged Care. After all, how could I possibly resist this soapbox moment?
Now, firstly, I have the greatest respect for the Elderly. My motivation to become an Aged Care specialist goes back to the start of my career where I observed a shocking amount of apathy, and sometimes downright abuse, towards this incredibly vulnerable group of people. Never one to let an injustice go by, I developed a close working relationship with the Office of Public Guardian, and reported many breaches made by Power of Attorneys, much to the dismay of my then manager.
Right now, everyone is in up in arms over the Deferred Management Fee model that was used by Aveo. The lawyers have an opinion, the politicians have an opinion, the share holders have an opinion, and the media is pointing the spotlight. It seems that everyone has an opinion, and is happy to point their finger, but why now? After all, Aveo has been around for 25 years, and there are other providers out there using the same fee model.
Personally, I believe that this is a result of not just people living longer, but also being more able for longer. When these residents need to step up their care and move, they realise exactly what a model means. Previously, this would have been masked by natural attrition. The provider would have claimed the deferred fee from the Estate rather than trying to claim it from a person, which is much more difficult.
Here's the million dollar question though. Why did the resident sign the agreement in the first place? The lawyers would say that the contracts are complex and draconian. One would generally suppose that if a middling person did not follow the words on the page then they wouldn't have signed without further advice. The politicians would probably say that it was shoddy business practices, that whole over promising, under delivering thing that happens. Once again, this indicates to me that the resident has been left to their own devices to make their decision. The shareholders would claim that the fee model is to blame, but of course, it worked well over the last 25 years, so why would you throw the baby out with the bathwater? Oh that's right, because now somebody actually , and got the media involved.
Elderly people are in a period of cognitive decline. There is no escaping this fact. And yet, we, as a society, have expected them to read a complex contract, and make an informed decision with information provided to them by the seller. That is akin to taking the word of a Real Estate agent that you don't need to get a valuation or pest inspection...it's all good...just sign here. No one in their right mind would do that!
So, rather than pointing the finger at a (which is not the same as moral, or ethical) business model, perhaps we should take the time to reflect on where the support network for the residents was when they signed that complex bit of paper. As a society, we need to hold up that mirror and admit that we have failed to protect those needing protecting.
We can change the legislation, and increase the regulation of this industry, but at the end of the day, a caring, and close, support network is what will protect the elderly. As individuals, we need to acknowledge that our parents, and grandparents, are growing increasingly frail, so don't put your head in the sand; ask them if they need help and be involved in their lives. And for goodness sake, if you don't understand it, get advice!
*Authorised Representative of Securitor Financial Group Ltd ABN 48 009 189 495 AFSL 240687
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