COTA Victoria’s staunch aged care advocate Merle Mitchell appeared as a witness at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings, which started in Sydney last week.
The hearings focused on the experiences of people like Merle living in residential care. Through personal accounts, the Commission hoped to gather ‘powerful and compelling insights into the experience of residential aged care, particularly for those living with dementia’, learning whether the residential aged care system is coping with the challenges and, if not, what’s going wrong.
Determined and open in her appearance via video link, Merle told the Commission, ‘There is the feeling it isn’t a proper life. So there’s just the feeling that the quicker it’s all over, the better it is … There’s a shock when you move into aged care. There is the loss … loss of the way of life. There’s a feeling of, suddenly, I am in an institution.’
Noting that many older people feel too vulnerable to share their experiences, Commissioner Richard Tracey thanked Merle for her extraordinarily valuable ‘insight from the inside’.
COTA Victoria CEO, Ronda Held, also applauded Merle, whose preparation as a witness has been instrumental to COTA’s advocacy work for the Commission at both a national and state level. ‘COTA has been seeking to empower and support older people. The Commission and indeed Australia needs to know the balance of what is and isn’t going well with our aged care system, so we can get it right. Thank goodness for courageous people like Merle – always a community advocate,’ Ms Held said.
To see Merle’s appearance, go to 52:00 minutes into the live recording on the Commission’s website.