We need to change the aged care language

The tragedy unfolding in Victoria these past few weeks, as COVID takes its toll on the elderly, should sound alarm bells for all of us. Brothers, sisters, mums and dads, nans and pops, uncles and aunts are taken every day by this virus, the updated tally delivered grimly by that state's Premier Dan Andrews.

If that many Australians were dying on the roads each day, there would be a persistent national outcry.

What we have instead is a grotesque political exercise in blame shifting, number fudging, crocodile tears and obfuscation.

Anyone watching Question Time in the federal parliament recently would have seen the bad old habits returning as pollies try for the cheap shot or the dodge.

We've witnessed the bumbling Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck being comprehensively shredded for not being able to answer questions in a Senate hearing. Labor Senator Penny Wong's take, that she would not entrust the care of her parents to Colbeck, would have resonated with many.

Before that, the Prime Minister returned to poor form with his ill-judged commentary on the Victorian government's handling of the COVID crisis in the aged care system. When he said the federal government funded and regulated the system, but what went on within it was a matter for Victoria, it sounded eerily familiar - just like his disastrous "I don't hold a hose, mate" comment back in the midst of the bushfire crisis.

All politicians, regardless of their politics, need to recognise that the aged care system is broken, indeed was broken even before being caught up in the pandemic. The evidence before the Royal Commission made that plain. The intrinsic conflict between the pursuit of profit and the delivery of care was laid bare before COVID struck.

You just have to look at the language of aged care to see where things need to change.

The bloodless language of the bureacracy and the corporation has morphed what used to be called a "nursing home" into an "aged care facility".

Facility? The very word suggests some kind of processing plant - a place where old folk go to die. We need to a better word that suggests a place where old folk go to live, a safe haven where they will be cared for as individuals, as the mothers, fathers, grandparents, people they are.

The elderly people we are losing each day are more than numbers or pawns in some political game. They will be us soon enough.

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