What’s the role of triple zero in aged care?

Article published 24 May 2023

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What's the role of triple zero in aged care?

The use of a taser on a resident led to widespread condemnation, but what was police doing in a nursing home? How often are they called out?

THE widely reported use of a taser on a 95-year-old NSW nursing home resident may seem an example of an occasional police call-out to a nursing home.

Certainly, the reason it was reported in the media was because of the use of a taser, not because of police being called out to a nursing home.

Initial comments reported in the media included calls for police to be trained in how to deal with people with dementia.

This is probably a good idea. After all, people with dementia live in the community as well as in nursing homes. But dementia training for police is not the solution to what may be a bigger problem.

The real question

Because the real question remains why the help of the police was called in.

They were being called-out to control the allegedly threatening behaviour of a 95-year-old woman who had grabbed a steak knife.

A second and entirely different question is why police attending decided to use a taser on her. It seems over the top but the details of what happened have not yet formally investigated and established.

Important as it is to get to the bottom of this case, the primary question that needs to be answered is why the police gets called out to nursing homes in the first place.

Another police nursing home call-out gone wrong

The Guardian newspaper reports that in October 2020 police attended another NSW nursing home. This report too has emerged because arguably excessive force was used by police to restrain a resident, in this case with handcuffs.

Again, how often and how systematically police are called out to attend incidents at Australian nursing homes to deal with, or even subdue residents?

Why do nursing homes call the police?

It is well-known that many nursing homes are in the habit of calling an ambulance if there’s only the slightest possibility their staff are unable to medically deal with often very basic medical issues.

Do police nursing home call-outs occur on a similar basis? If a nursing home feels they are unable to deal with a resident behaving erratically or unreasonably, it calls 000?

Police forces have the answer

If this is the case or not, call-out data by police forces around the country will answer that question.

It’s the reason why CPSA has called for all Australian police forces to publish nursing home call-out data, just as ambulance services do.

This is not intended to demonise police. Police have a duty to attend all call-outs, and they can’t be criticised for attending nursing home call-outs.

However, it is in the public interest for them to publish data about nursing home call-outs as it would shed light on a potentially frequent practice in residential aged care.

If nursing home call-outs are infrequent, isolated events, these events can be dealt with on that basis.

However, if it is shown that they happen often, it is clear that these call-outs need to be dealt with at a systemic, policy level by the Department of Health and Aged Care and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

It is important to note that care workers at nursing homes may be justified in not wanting to deal with aggressively behaving residents.

It is certain, though, that the community is entitled to police information on nursing home call-outs.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

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