At-home carers crumbling under the “wait” of packages
THERE is a crisis unfolding in our community and it involves the unsustainable stress on carers of the aged.
The government and industry trend is encouraging the elderly to stay out of residential care for as long as possible and live independently, taking advantage of home care packages and family or friend carers until the time that full time care is needed.
Where the system fails appallingly is the number of home care packages are capped and not meeting the demand, and access to respite is systemically flawed.
A new Integrated Carer Support Service (ICSS) will add another layer of support for carers but for those struggling now, it’s a case of a little too late, scheduled to make an impact no earlier than September.
What’s odd is that the aging population has been anticipated now for a good few decades, and policy seems to be out of step and playing catch up.
The aged care climate changed it seems, overnight, but it’s not that we didn’t see it coming.
With an aging population, the current situation does not bode well for seniors moving into circumstances which may have been unforeseen, such as a dementia diagnosis, where care becomes increasingly demanding as this condition progresses and the wait time for respite might be over 12 months.
In a situation of declining health or mental capacity, those months can be arduous and the cause of the carer’s own decline and mental health from the 24/7 nature of care required.
According to one report, 100,000 people have been approved for packages but are on waiting lists to receive them.
Services can include basic support, such as cleaning the bathroom once a week, maintaining a garden or taking the person out for a coffee, all of which reduce the demand on carers.
“There can be many emotional strains in a care relationship,” said a statement issued by Carers Australia.
“Carers often suffer guilt because they cannot address all the deficits in the life of those they care for, because they worry that they are not doing a perfect job as carers, because they sometimes feel resentful of the loss of their own life chances.
“They also tend to be socially isolated or lonely. They are frequently financially insecure. Wider family relationships can become very tense around the caring role. In addition, carers are often the ones who have to negotiate the supports for and assert the rights of those they care for. They may need legal advice. They may need education in the care they provide. They may need a rest.”
In February this year, Carers Australia released a report titled “Improving access to aged residential respite care” making recommendations on how to help carers, care.
One is a real-time booking service.
“Pressure could be alleviated through an online accommodation service, operating on the same principles as Airbnb, where providers can list their services and take bookings and payments for respite accommodation,” the report said.
“Residential aged care providers would only use the service if they considered there was a financial gain – that is that they could get occupancy of unused beds.” Great idea. Government subsidies are, however, lower than for permanent care, and while providers face additional costs and risks, offering respite isn’t going to be a priority. The residential care providers also impose minimum stay periods for respite, can be booked out months in advance, may not be available anywhere local, don’t have trained staff for high-care needs, and/or may only offer respite between permanent residents, and carers can’t afford it or they’re just not eligible.
This systemic hampering of respite care is adding one pebble after another onto the shoulders of carers who prop up a vast population of people.
The future isn’t all bad, however. At 5pm tomorrow (Friday, April 13), the Government’s Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) will close their request for submissions for a consultation paper reviewing services. Jump in today.
The University of Newcastle is conducting a study into the health behaviours and needs of carers in order to develop tools and resources to assist unpaid carers achieve healthier lifestyles.
Visit their website to complete a short, 15-minute survey to help that research along.
From September, a new network of Regional Delivery Partners across Australia will be established to help carers access new and improved local and targeted services.
In October this year the Integrated Carer Support Service, the program launched last month, will also launch a Carer Gateway featuring phone and online counselling services, online peer support, online coaching resources with simple techniques and strategies for goal-setting and future planning, and educational resources, to increase skills and knowledge of carers relating to specific caring situations, to build confidence and improve wellbeing.
Tenders to assist in the rollout of these services were issued on March 14, through Austender, for Carer Coaching and Carer counselling and Online Peer Support.■