Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

In our Missing Voices series, Crikey is asking our older readers to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic.

Bert Morris writes: I am 89 and my wife is 80. We are facing the prospect of moving into aged care accommodation in the not-too-distant future. In fact we have already started to look at aged care homes with a view to deciding which we would prefer to go into.

I was therefore interested to read in Crikey that “Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy — whom, people seem to forget, is a public servant, for a government that demands that public servants serve the political interests of the Coalition — refused to disclose aged care facilities that had suffered COVID-19 outbreaks. ‘Some of the facilities don’t want it publicly known that they have outbreaks,’ he told a parliamentary committee. ‘They’re obviously worried about reputational issues.’ Public awareness would put ‘stress’ on them, Murphy said, creating a ‘public hit list of facilities’.”

Given that he is a “public servant” and that I, as a member of the public, need advice which could be provided by “his” department, I would have thought that it is his responsibility to provide that advice to me. So Dr Murphy (public servant), which aged care homes on the Sunshine Coast have had COVID-19 outbreaks?

Frank Ward writes: I am a 91-years-old and live in a self-care villa in a not-for-profit community that provides great facilities covering the full range of care including dementia. I am still active playing golf twice a week so I have as yet not had the need for intensive care. However I have noticed so much advertising by groups offering care services in the home, and thought that this was great until a friend got a home care package at Level 4 that allotted her some $50,000 to cover her expenses in the home (which I thought was wonderful). However, as her care progressed I soon found out these care groups are not there in the Florence Nightingale tradition — they are just following the money as they provide care.

First they take 40% of the funds to manage the money, then when they provide a service like cleaning they charge $30 an hour but the worker gets just $23 — and this applies to all services, so that out of the $50,000 most groups end up getting around 50% of the funds. There is no supervision of these providers, as there are no regulators in the aged care hospitals as revealed in Victoria and the royal commission. 

I have had great difficulty in understanding why over 85-year-old men have the highest rate of suicide in any group in our nation, but having regard to the alternative of “aged care” it is becoming clearer.

Marcus Wigan (78) writes: Prior to COVID-19 I visited six aged care homes, and was so put off that I have given instructions that I am not to be placed in one. A few weeks later I had open heart surgery and a few extra incapacities emerged.

One aspect was that there appeared to be zero agency attributed to the residents — as you say, the voices of the elderly are both muted and ignored. I have previously (in my youth at 73) made an invited address to the Graduate House at the University of Melbourne on this issue with special emphasis on technology, where the lack of participation of the elderly in their own governance has impacts in a wide range of areas.

Cate Turner writes: I am 92, a single woman living alone. As I have a tendency towards bronchitis in winter I am naturally fearful of catching COVID-19, as I fear it would be my end. However I have adjusted to taking precautions and have appreciated efforts for our protection. For example, my local supermarket has a seniors period for shopping, similarly my local library is open to seniors only until 11am.

I sympathise with all those who have lost jobs and are struggling.
For myself as an elder, I have no complaints or special concerns at all and have many friends who check up to make sure I am OK.

Crikey is calling for readers in their 70s and beyond to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic. To contribute, write to us at [email protected] with “Missing Voices” in the subject line.

Peter Fray

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