A major investigation by the Weekend Herald has revealed dire living situations in many rest homes across the country.
Consumer New Zealand's Jessica Wilson has spent a decade researching care in rest homes and told Newstalk ZB the Government needs to step up and improve legislation to ensure a much higher standard for the vulnerable elderly.
Staffing was the main issue causing problems, often there were not enough staff on the ground or they did not have the appropriate training, Wilson said.
The regulations governing rest homes were not tight enough to deliver the standard of care required, she said.
The Government played a "key role" and needed to step up.
"It's public money that goes into rest homes, both public and private, to fund staffing."
The existing minimum staffing ratio was far too low - two caregivers were required per 50 residents according to the agreements between DHBs and rest homes providers, Wilson said.
That means there was about one hour a day of care for each resident, she said.
"The best evidence shows that the homes that have higher staffing levels tend to be not-for-profit homes," she said.
Wilson said to be wary that "a flash-looking building" did not guarantee the best care.
"The main thing to look at is how many staff are there.
"What is their qualifications and what experience do they have delivering the care and the level of care that your family members needs."
Good care "should be the norm, it shouldn't be the exception".