Mark Sainsbury: Stand up for our elderly or one day it could be you

OPINION: I have found myself uttering something I never thought would pass my lips: "Let's have an inquiry".

What's brought me to this place has been the stories and experiences I have been hearing these past two days.  

We have been talking on RadioLIVE Morning Talk about the treatment of our seniors.

What started it was an email from a listener aghast at hearing from those working in the aged care industry that residents in some rest homes were restricted to two showers a week.

I must admit I found it hard to believe, or perhaps I simply did not want to believe that we could treat our precious senior citizens in such a cruel and disrespectful way.   

But the stories kept coming from people working in the industry. This was not unusual they said - staff shortages and the profit motive meant corners were cut. In some places, nappies for incontinent patients were rationed and thinking about the results of that coupled with the lack of showering nearly brought me to tears.

This is not an attack on those working in the age care industry - they are in the main dedicated, caring, underpaid and overworked.  

But they struggle to deal with an increasing number of residents, often citing pressure from owners to limit time with each resident. Our seniors deserve more than an allocated number of minutes.

At first both the Ministry of Health, which regulates and effectively funds the rest home care for eligible residents, and the Age Care Association, which represents the rest home owners, remained silent. When it was apparent that we were not going to let this go, they agreed to come on Morning Talk.  

First the Ministry of Health's Health Certification Manager Emma Prestidge told us she would be appalled if this restriction on showers was really happening.  

They would not countenance it and what's more she assured us the Ministry has a robust certification and compliance regime that would stamp out any such occurrence.

Rest homes, she assured us, were audited every three years and there were spot inspections.

I am yet to talk to anyone who has witnessed a spot inspection. This doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but no one who contacted us had seen it.

Then the icing on the cake. Simon Wallace, the CEO of the Age Care Association, claimed that this was not a problem.  

That his members all maintained the highest of standards and that showering daily was available.

Perhaps if you pay for it as some rest homes openly advertise. But call after call from registered nurses and caregivers openly called the association's claims lies, repeating the fact that showering twice a week was common practice.  

I can understand that if it is the resident's choice, but we are dealing with people who are vulnerable. In the case of vulnerable children, an entire government ministry is dedicated to them - what of the vulnerable at the other end of the scale?

As I write this, an email has arrived from someone who worked as a court-appointed guardian detailing her experiences and concerns. Yes, the showering twice a week is common she says, but "don't get me started" - she warns there's worse.

She says she's tried through the courts to get them to change legislation so our elderly are better protected, but no luck.

I believe it's time we made a stand. All of us. We need to stand up and be counted and protect those who have gone before us. If not for them, then at least out of self-interest - because one day, it could be you needing that protection.  

If you or anyone you know is being let down in their care in a rest home, contact Emma Prestidge at the Ministry of Health on, or contact me at RadioLIVE - we at least will stand up for you.

To contact RadioLIVE, call 0800 844 747 (0800 THIS IS LIVE), text 3920, or email

Mark Sainsbury is RadioLIVE's Morning Talk host.