A new report published by the Human Rights Commission raises concerns about the legal and human rights safeguards for an estimated 5000 elderly New Zealanders in secure dementia units and psychogeriatric facilities.
The publication, This Is Not My Home, considers the legal and ethical issues around residential care for older people when the care is provided without the person’s consent. The report contains a collection of essays from lawyers, doctors, academics and a District Court judge.
This is Not My Home identifies serious issues with the current legislative frameworks and associated policy and practices, such as a lack of legal safeguards protecting the rights of people placed in care.
“The report is concerning to read,” says Disability Rights Commissioner and acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.
“The report’s co-editor Dr Mark Fisher has previously cited about 4000 New Zealanders being detained in secure dementia units, with a further 1000 in residential psychogeriatric facilities.
“Very few of these people have formally consented to being held in these locked facilities, so it is critical that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure everyone’s rights and preferences are respected to the greatest extent possible,” says Ms Tesoriero.
“This requires a real commitment to actively support individual decision-making. I hope that the calls for law reform and change of practice identified by the contributors will be carefully considered by all those who can influence change in this area.”
Ms Tesoriero says that strong advocacy for this group of New Zealanders is critical, including more work to understand their perspectives.
“We do not know much about how they feel about the situations they are in or what it is like to be forced, against your will, to live in a place that is not your home and is not where you want to be,” says Ms Tesoriero.
“This makes it even more important that we advocate for these people and do whatever we can to ensure that they are supported to live the best life that they can, and that their rights, preferences and wishes are respected as much as possible.”
The papers in This is Not My Home were originally prepared for a series of seminars and workshops on the legal safeguards and ethical issues around the care of elderly and psycho-geriatric patients in New Zealand. Each paper represents the view of its individual author, and do not necessarily represent the view of the Human Rights Commission or other contributors.