Don’t fall victim to the unscrupulous management of some aged care providers

22 August 2018

Fleur came into see one of our lawyers on behalf of her friend, Norma, who was distressed and unhappy with her accommodation arrangements at an Aged Care Facility and wanted out. This was not a situation where the resident had lost the ability to make decisions for herself, but rather it was a situation where an elderly woman with no family was being taken advantage of.

From the evidence provided to us by the doctor of the Nursing Home and Norma’s own personal doctors, it was clear that she had the capacity to make her own decisions about where to live. However, the Aged Care Facility refused to allow her to leave.

On instructions we wrote to the Aged Care Facility to request a copy of the Aged Care Accommodation Agreement to determine how we could best assist our client. The Aged Care Facility ignored our request and instead applied to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a Guardian and Administrator to be appointed for Norma. Moreover, when we questioned the managers about the basis on which they were not willing to release Norma and her accommodation bond, they refused to communicate with us.

Norma became depressed and anxious. She felt that she was a prisoner who was trapped in the Aged Care Facility. She was prohibited from leaving the facility and the staff did not speak to her other than to say, “You are not going anywhere, unless the Court says so!” As far as Norma was concerned their behaviour was bordering on elder abuse.

Norma’s situation could have been avoided if she had appointed an attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney for personal matters. Her attorney would have been authorised to assist Norma in moving out of the Aged Care Facility and to request the release of the refundable accommodation deposit.

A Personal Power of Attorney enables an appointed attorney to make decisions on behalf of the principal in relation to their accommodation and lifestyle decisions.

Luckily for Norma, with the help of her trusted friend, she was able to slip Norma out of the Aged Care Facility to be assessed by a reputable neuropsychiatrist who deemed Norma capable of making her own decisions, particularly in relation to her accommodation. At the hearing requested by the Aged Care Facility, VCAT agreed with the findings of Norma’s neuropsychiatrist, and so Norma was able to leave the aged care facility. However, if Norma didn’t have the support of a trusted friend who was prepared to take Norma to lawyers and doctors, and personally fund the neuropsychiatrist’s report, Norma’s story would not have had such a happy ending.

If you are assisting a client, a friend or loved one into an Aged Care Facility or perhaps you are considering the move, before you do so, contact one of our lawyers to prepare tailored Powers of Attorney to meet your individual needs and circumstances. You should ensure that in addition to an Enduring Power of Attorney for financial matters, you have in place an Enduring Power of Attorney for personal matters. Attending to these documents, well ahead of time, is the best protection against aged care facilities taking advantage of you or your loved ones during what is probably the most vulnerable time in their or your life.