Break the Bias is the theme for International Women’s Day in 2022. This is why you may have seen the #BreakTheBias topic trending on social media.
The campaign describes this as meaning:
“A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”
Why is a start-up that works in aged care and end-of-life talking about this? There are many reasons why we believe removing bias from how we care for people in aged care environments and/or during end-of-life care could benefit us all.
Here’s why we all need to Break the Bias in healthcare, aged care and end-of-life care for better outcomes
Older women are at risk of homelessness
As women age in Australia, their risk of homelessness increases. In fact, women over 45 are the fastest at-risk for homelessness group in Australia today. Factors such as relationship breakdown, part time and insecure work, and raising children all have a negative impact on superannuation, housing and the financial profile of older Australian women.
The August 2020 HAAG and Social Ventures Australia report found the number of older women at risk of homelessness in Australia is a staggering 405,000. 165,000 women aged between 45 – 55 years begin the figures. And this trend sadly increases to 240,000 women aged 55 years and over.
If women are at risk of homelessness, this has a dramatic impact on the areas that matter. If you can’t afford to keep a roof over your head, how can a woman afford future access to healthcare, aged care and end-of-life care?
Homelessness means less appropriate healthcare and more susceptibility to illness, disease and disability. The state of homelessness significantly reduces the chances of a person receiving appropriate aged care services. And it means that the choices of an ageing or dying person are significantly reduced through a lack of assets and/or funds.
Fortunately, The Mercy Foundation are working to prevent the cycle of homelessness through advocating for appropriate housing, low cost options and ensuring the national aged care policy caters for both the homeless and the hidden homeless, those living in temporary situations and couch surfing.
But we can avoid this level of displacement in future by breaking the cycle of poverty, increasing women’s ability to parent and work through better workplace flexibility, and advocating for women to receive better pay in aged care workplaces. And we can play a meaningful role in making aged care accessible by supporting affordable and accessible aged care on a practical and policy level.
Empowered treatments change patient outcomes
We’re becoming increasingly aware of the role bias has played in science and medicine over the decades. All research can include information bias, selection bias, and confounding. Implicit bias can also influence research, treatments chosen and even individual healthcare worker response through unconscious bias. The most common example of that is the documented disparity between how a Person of Colour is viewed in relation to treatment access and choices as documented in studies from both the UK and USA.
In Australia, we have sadly our own examples of moments where Indigenous Australians have lost their lives through preventable events. We see it in the headlines when Indigenous Australians lose their lives to illness, injury and disease in the justice system as well as high profile cases at emergency departments.
We can’t ignore that this bias will find it’s way into eldercare as well.
However, knowing that we have bias within our research, our treatments and our policies means we can do what we can to Break the Bias and end the cycle.
And we can do this by making a conscious effort to update the science and the policies. As well as making a commitment to creating spaces for Indigenous People within research, policy development, healthcare and frontline work.
As we’ve spoken about before, inclusive aged care and palliative care requires a shift in our thinking. But it is one that is incredibly worthwhile.
Policy and tech need it
If we accept “that’s the way we’ve always done it” as a response, we never get to achieve the dizzying heights personally, professionally or even profitably available to us.
Innovation creates jobs, opportunities and the chance for us to influence the world for the better. Complacency is where the stagnant waters of fatigue-based decision making resides.
At ExSitu, we are those unlikely figures who happened to make it through the door. We’re women in tech who came from a nursing background. We’ve encountered firsthand some of the old world thinking and barriers to being heard that are carried within assumptions about gender. We’ve presented in front of people who see “only nurses” or “only women”.
Even being from Wollongong raised the odd eyebrow, despite the city having reinvented itself from coal and steel through technology, healthcare and as a liveable city and tourist destination.
We’ve also got a product that is values-based that presented the idea of the individual and their custom needs prior to values being a mandated part of the aged care reforms. We’ve been talking about the need to be culturally agnostic and applicable to LGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Disability care at a time when advocacy groups were championing the cause.
Healthcare, eldercare, aged care and end-of-life have always been a necessary feature of a functioning Australian society. But now we’re realising that Breaking the Bias in relation to gender, sexuality, race, disability and in general help us be better industry professionals. And in turn, it means we can provide better care to more people in a far more individual way. All while using policy and technology to make delivery more efficient, consistent and with fewer drains on resources, finances and time.
What will you do to Break the Bias this March?
If you want a way to ensure that you can give values-based, person-centred care in a consistent and customised way, ExSitu can help you.
As a team of professionals who have intimate understanding of the challenges aged care and end-of-life providers face, we can help guide you through change in a meaningful way.