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“Young people in aged care homes can experience social isolation”
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“Young people in aged care homes can experience social isolation”

Thousands of young people in Australia share care home accommodation with the elderly. With incredibly different and complex needs, it is unsurprising that many experience depression,  reports Sarah Kilcoyne, a 28-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Brisbane, Queensland.

It is almost incomprehensible – being 20-years-old and living in a nursing home, surrounded by the elderly and infirm. Sadly this is a daily reality for thousands of young people across Australia.

In 2005, the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committeefound that there were more than 6,500 young Australians with significant care needs living in aged care, solely because of the lack of appropriate alternatives.

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicated that in 2007 family and friends were caring for an additional 700,000 young Australians with substantial care requirements. However, for many families the emotional and financial burden of caring for young people is too great.

The care requirements vary according to each individual young person’s circumstances. Some young people have incredibly complex needs. The intricacies of the needs of young people in care means that aged care facilities are inappropriate.

Recently the lack of accommodation designed to meet the specific needs of young people with complex care needs. As a result, thousands of young people are living out their youth in the confines of aged care facilities designed for the infirm, aged and dying.

The primary obstacle faced by young people in aged facilities is that nursing homes cater to people in an entirely different stage of life. Often the primary focus of aged care nursing homes is to make the final stages of life more comfortable, rather than providing rehabilitation and opportunities to experience life.

Many young people in aged care nursing homes experience significant social isolation. Many homes do not provide age-appropriate community outings such as shopping and eating out with friends. Nursing homes are also not attractive places for friends of young people in care to visit.

Additionally, the extensive generation gap between the majority of residents in aged care facilities further compounds much of the isolation these young people feel. It is not surprising that many young people in care experience depression.

The flow-on effect of young people in care includes the implications for aged care facilities that are already over-crowded. The sad reality is that these young people are taking up beds desperately-needed by our aged population. As a result, many aged people are waiting in hospital beds for places in nursing homes.

Recently the Australian government has increased funding to provide more appropriate accommodation for young people in care. Community-based not for profit organizations have also been established to create specialized accommodation to cater for the specific needs of young people in care.

Whilst these are positive steps towards change – we must remember the forgotten youth, many of who remain lost in our aged-care system.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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