Grey Power has slammed the "shockingly inadequate" sentence given to a former journalism professor who sexually assaulted a dementia sufferer in a rest home.

Federation president Mac Welch said he hoped the Solicitor General's Office would appeal the sentence given to Grant Hannis.

Welch also called on the Government to urgently establish an Aged Care Commissioner with enough legal authority to ensure rest homes had adequate security in place.

"We don't like disputes with Government," he said. "We much prefer to work with them to achieve common goals but the safety and security of vulnerable elderly people takes priority over all other considerations."

Advertisement

Hannis was last week sentenced to eight months home detention for an indecent act against an 82-year-old dementia sufferer in her rest home. He was also given 100 hours of community work, and ordered to pay $3000 emotional harm reparation.

• Read more about how the sentence was arrived at by clicking here.

Welch said the woman should have been safe.

"We urgently need someone with an overview of the industry and the authority to require best practice performance. We were promised this by the Labour Party before the election but it has yet to happen.

"The majority of rest homes provide very good service and it is only in a small minority where elderly vulnerable people are at risk of abuse or neglect."

Welch said the matter would be discussed at Grey Power Federation's annual meeting in May, and he expected delegates to be as angry as he was about the case.

Police have been approached for comment. A spokeswoman for Crown Law said no requests to consider an appeal had been received.

In September Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa revealed she had asked the Ministry of Health for advice about possible reforms, and options covered include establishing an Aged Care Commission.

Advertisement

Today, she said the ministry was working with DHBs and other regulatory bodies to bring in "quality improvement initiatives", and she continued to talk to other ministers about possible next steps.

"Setting up an Aged Care Commissioner may require a new regulatory framework and appropriate legal obligations to be established. We would also need to consider the scope and responsibilities of such a role, how it would fit with the existing functions of other related bodies, and the ministry's current work to provide quality and safety in aged care," Salesa said.

"There is potential added value in establishing an Aged Care Commissioner role as this would raise the profile of the need for quality improvement in the sector and give it more visibility. But this is not the only way to improve aged care services."

A Herald investigation has found a third of the country's 651 aged-care facilities have had recent shortcomings related to resident care.

Residents have died from festering bedsores, and in one case a family found maggots hatching in their father's sores.

Other issues include a lack of food and incontinence supplies and a 95-year-old forced to sleep in a recliner chair for 24 days because an adjustable bed wasn't available.

Legislation introduced last year in Australia will set up a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to crack down on widespread failures in rest home care.

In New Zealand, both Labour and the Green Party went into the election with policy to set up a similar watchdog.

The two parties together with Grey Power held an inquiry into the sector shortly before last year's election, and produced a report calling for big changes.

Those included updating voluntary aged-care standards and making them mandatory, and setting up the Office of the Aged Care Commissioner and position of Aged Care Commissioner, to help enforce standards.

Other recommendations were to set up a star rating for rest homes, and investigate whether the current process for complaints from residents and families is good enough.

Growing old in New Zealand

• About 36,000 New Zealanders live in over 650 aged-care facilities, including rest homes, hospital-level care and dementia units

• There are about 83,000 New Zealanders aged 85 or older – a number forecast to rise to up to 284,000 by 2043 and 467,000 by 2068

Safety and care concerns

In a series of articles the Herald has reported on failure in care, including:

• An elderly man had maggots hatch in open wounds

• Residents dying from festering - and preventable - bedsores

• A 95-year-old slept in a recliner chair for 24 days because an adjustable bed wasn't available

• A dementia patient unlawfully charged a weekly fee for a "premium" room

• Elderly residents strapped to chairs all day with minimal movement or repositioning

• Residents claiming caregivers would withhold medication as punishment

• A chef went to authorities, claiming his budget worked out to just $1.60 per resident, per meal