At-home car­ers crum­bling un­der the “wait” of pack­ages

Dubbo Photo News - - Opin­ion & anal­y­sis - Yvette Aubus­son­fo­ley

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.■

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