Aged care workers say they don't have enough time to meet older people's emotional and social needs because they are so rushed and under pressure to provide basic physical care.
Workplace cultures, in which staff were rushed and had little choice but to leave residents with unmet social and emotional needs appeared standard, a joint University of NSW, Macquarie University and RMIT study says.
"Care workers routinely observe that older people's emotional needs are left unmet in the system designed to support them," RMIT's Wendy Taylor said on Wednesday.
"In the aged care system today, overlooking older people's basic social and emotional needs has become part of accepted business practices."
Lead author Professor Gabrielle Meagher from Macquarie University said it was structurally difficult for residential and home care services to deliver person-centred care.
"The Australian aged care system has to meet increasing levels of demand, and to respond to the increasing complexity of need among older people related to daily living, behavioural issues or complex health care," she said.
"But our research shows this has not been matched with appropriate funding, staffing levels or a mix of staff skills."
The major constraints on quality care related to the lack of time workers had available to spend with older people, high workloads and inadequate staffing, the report prepared for the Health Services Union and United Voice said.
The authors said insufficient time and staffing in residential care partly explained the very high rates of social isolation and mental distress experienced by older people, along with the over-prescription of medication to manage distress.
Aged care royal commission lawyers last week said inadequate staffing levels meant aged care staff were often overworked, rushed and generally under pressure, impacting their ability to provide high quality care.