Integrity: Walking the Talk at MACS

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In our previous news feature Working with Integrity in Consumer-Directed Care, we raised questions about new providers breaking into the government-subsidised home care market. And how will the value of integrity feature with new and inexperienced players? How will “consumers and significant others know that their interactions with these new providers will be ethical, honest, trustworthy, transparent and professional?”

Integrity is a MACS’ value and this flame has burnt for nearly twenty-two years of serving the Geelong community as a not-for-profit organization. Certainty and peace of mind around care options comes from trust in the organisation’s ability to deliver. Trust is built up from a well-established track record. It doesn’t just turn up overnight.

And with all the fast changes in the care matrix for older Australians, it’s no bolt from the blue that the media is a whistle-blower of organisational integrity in aged care.  Some aged care organisations may announce that they are industry leaders, yet they may have only been in the market for several years at most.  They may argue that they have the required expertise and state of the art offerings. But such swagger won’t cut it when it comes to building an authentic professional brand and commitment to residents, home services consumers and their families.

A consumer or resident must be able to trust the care provider to be financially viable, deliver the goods agreed on and to ensure that consumer assets are appropriately managed. That means that clarity on the costs and care provision would need to be the norm. Showing dignity and respect towards our seniors happens by clear inclusion on care provision choices. And dignity and respect are values MACS has always held; they are now cemented into aged care legislation.

In the light of the Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms, the value of integrity counts more than ever. Gone are the days when a resident or home care consumer is expected to simply agree with a provider’s prospectus. Strong awareness of ageism pulsates in aged care; planning for care is meant to be inclusive and can involve consultation with significant others such as a power of attorney or an organisation such as COTA, (Council of the Ageing). For instance:

72.4% of older Australians received help with their paperwork

54.6% received help with paying bills

41% received help with accessing their money and banking

Integrity in business practice ensures that financial abuse of seniors doesn’t happen at MACS.  The World Health Organisation defines financial abuse of an older person as: “The illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person”. The definition includes acts with adverse outcomes committed not only by people known to and trusted by the victim, but also acts perpetrated by strangers and by institutions.

The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (EAPU) made a succinct definition of financial abuse:“The illegal or improper use of a person’s finances or property by another person with whom they have a relationship implying trust”. A number of peak organisations including the Victorian Department of Human Services and Senior Rights Victoria have used this definition.

Intentional financial abuse involves “deliberate intention”; unintended abuse is “the inadvertent or uninformed financial mismanagement or neglect of financial assets.” Senior Rights Victoria reported that financial abuse is the most frequently reported form of elder abuse.

The House of Representatives Committees report, Fraud and financial abuse

notes that older people have a higher fear of crime than the general population. To them, physical injury or loss of confidence will mean that they can no longer live independently in the community. But it also mentions that within the older age group consumer fraud occurs more frequently than other types of crime. Consumer fraud was more than twice as frequent as assault or theft and thirteen times more frequent than robbery.

Fraud and financial crime against older people can be particularly severe; opportunity for financial recovery can be lacking.  Sadly, a blow to financial security is often a permanent and life-threatening setback for older people.

The Law Institute of Victoria clearly distinguishes between fraud and financial abuse:

Fraud generally involves the older person falling victim to strangers who represent themselves as being in positions of authority and trust in order to sell products and services.

The Victorian Government also noted that financial abuse against older people is a complex issue and ties in with the Trade Practices Act, which outlines deceptive, exploitative and coercive behavior towards a consumer.

It includes:

  • Withholding knowledge about or permission in regard to money or property;
  • Forging or forcing an older person’s signature;
  • Abusing joint signatory authority on a blank form;
  • Cashing an older person’s cheque without permission or authorisation;
  • Misappropriating funds from a pension;
  • An older person signing important documents through deception/coercion or undue influence
  • Promising long-term of lifetime care in exchange for money and property and not providing such care
  • Over-charging or not delivering care giving services

Expertise, with a clear understanding of the aged care industry comes with experience. For these years MACS has had a dedicated and highly professional administration team who clearly work to MACS’ value of integrity. Collectively, the team, led by business manager Chris Hudgell, hold an array of relevant tertiary qualifications and experience. The enviable knowledge and skills base needed to offer certainty and sustainable continuity in care options is complimented by specific training to identify and avoid financial abuse.

Perhaps encouraging financial literacy or the ability to make informed judgements and to take effective decisions regarding the use and management of money can improve outcomes for seniors making decisions in aged care. Organisations such The Financial Literacy Foundation assists all Australians and provides them with an opportunity to increase their financial knowledge and better manage their money.

But at the end of the day, proven integrity in aged care business dealings with providers can still be the key when it comes to making and consolidating sound decisions for aged care service provision.


The Financial Literacy Foundation

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