Politicians have been urged to put the needs of older Australians front and centre as they race towards the election, with aged care groups saying the next government must embrace further reforms.
A Government shake-up of the aged care sector began to come into effect a few weeks ago, and the Opposition has largely backed the changes.
But with estimates showing that in 40 years almost a quarter of Australians will be 65 and over, and more than 3 million will need aged care, politicians are being urged not to rest on their laurels.
The bosses of the Council on the Ageing (COTA), Alzheimer's Australia and the Consumer Health Forum today set out the path they think political parties should take in order to meet the demands of Australia's ageing society.
COTA chief Ian Yates , including improved access to aged care services and affordable housing, and tackling age discrimination that makes older Australians feel "like second-class citizens".
"We're seeking to place some markers in the electoral sand," he told the National Press Club forum.
Mr Yates welcomed the Government's reforms, which he said will deliver positive change for the industry, but called for more to be done.
He said as with DisabilityCare, funding should be given directly to the recipient, to allow them to choose what care they receive and who provides it.
"It's about continuing to move towards an aged care system that puts the older person at the centre - not in nice words, but through a control over the resources to which they are entitled as as full citizens, even though they need support," he said.
"Consumers want to have as much control over their lives and their care as possible. To be inter-dependent, not dependent. To experience freedom and choice, and experience dignity."
Mr Yates called for resources to be allocated on "an entitlement basis, rather than being subject to quotas".
He also raised the possibility of a HECs-style scheme that would see older people allowed to borrow against their home in order to pay healthcare costs.
Alzheimer's Australia chief Glenn Rees also welcomed the Government reforms, saying for the first time policy is seeking a tailored approach to care.
Highlighting that more than 320,000 Australians are currently living with dementia, he said: access to support, quality residential care and dementia research funding.
Mr Rees called for the expansion of community care, and proposed a trial in which people were given the resources to organise their own respite care.
"This would be a good test to see how individualised funding might work in aged care," he said.
Mr Rees also raised the issue of the quality of care, citing "disturbing" reports on the ABC's Lateline revealing instances of neglect and abuse in aged care facilities.
Some relatives of people in aged care told the program their loved ones had been left in faeces and urine, treated roughly, inadequately fed, and neglected by untrained staff.
One woman said her grandmother, who survived Nazi concentration camps,.
"While we do recognise that these stories do not reflect the norm, they do highlight that the quality of care is variable, and in some cases not up to the standard that anybody here would expect for themselves or their loved ones," Mr Rees said.
"For this reason Alzheimer's Australia is calling for zero tolerance of poor quality care and violations of basic human rights.
"In particular, we need better structures in place to monitor the quality of care, to advocate for consumers, to make outcomes transparent, and to provide remedial action quickly when violations of human rights occur."
Admitting there are still "bad apples" working in the industry, Mr Rees called for more funding to train aged care staff.
He also called for $200 million in additional funding for dementia research over the next five years, warning the cost of not acting is far greater.
The Government's $3.7 billion aged care reforms passed both houses of Parliament earlier this year after being .
The changes were designed to ensure the aged care sector is equipped to deal with an ageing population.
The package included the means testing of home care from July 2014, as well as extra funding to fight dementia and attract workers to the sector.
In Sunday night's leaders' debate, Mr Rudd labelled aged care a "growing challenge" for Australia and said it was an area where policy must be constantly reviewed.
"Aged care is a vital issue and ... any country worth its salt is seeking to deal with this in an effective way," he said.
He said the Government is focused on helping people "age with dignity", and spruiked the National Broadband Network as a technology that would help the sector.
The Coalition is yet to announce the aged care policy it will take to the September 7 poll.
During the debate, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott expressed support for the Government's reforms and called for less red tape in the sector.
"On this issue there isn't an enormous difference between the Coalition and the Government," he said.
"But we do need to try to ensure that the providers, that the nurses, that the other workers in these aged care centres who do such a terrific job, and are so helpful to very vulnerable Australians, don't have to spend as much time on paperwork as they currently do under a paper-based accountability system," he said.
A spokeswoman for shadow minister for ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, echoed that sentiment in a statement to the ABC.
"The Coalition has made it very clear that one of the key planks to our ageing policy is to make significant and real reductions into the burden of red tape," the spokeswoman said.
"We will stop the need for clinical staff to spend around one-third of their time on paperwork and enable them to get back to their proper job of care for our most frail and vulnerable citizens."
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