Thinking about aged care

How community seniors are accessing My Aged Care

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If you and your children or your parents haven’t yet broached the conversation about aged care, this is a good time to start. It will help your family be prepared with information to take the decision well in time and stay in control of the future.

To address the needs of a growing older population in Australia, our government has been administering changes to the aged care system since 2012. While the aim is to offer more choice, control and easier access to a wide range of aged care services, the reality is that it has added additional layers which could be a challenge to navigate through.

My Aged Care, launched on July 1 2013, aimed to provide ageing and aged care information to older people, their families, and carers, as well as assess their needs, and support them to find and access services. The Home Care Packages Program also went through a major reform on July 1, 2015 and was mandated to deliver on a consumer directed care (CDC) basis. It gives a consumer the choice of deciding their access to types of care and services, the how and when of delivery, service provider, as well the use and control of their care funds. The first stage of the Increasing Choice in Home Care measure was implemented on 27 February, 2017.

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The first step is to apply for an assessment via My Aged Care and figure out your own care needs and home care package. Care needs vary between basic, low-level, intermediate and high-level. Services may include personal; nutrition, hydration, meal preparation and diet; continence management; mobility and dexterity; nursing, allied health and other clinical services; transport and personal assistance; and management of skin integrity. Depending on the level of support required, either the Regional Assessment Service or the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) will contact you.

If this seems like too much information, you could start here or simply call 1800 200 422. To register the first time, Medicare card is needed.

We spoke to four individuals who have started their applications journey for home care packages.

Hardika Hirani

Like many other seniors, my husband and I wish to live in our own home for as long as possible. We’ve been receiving Domestic Assistance from CHSP since 2016 and have used Community Transport occasionally. With the introduction of the home care packages from My Aged Care, our hope of not wanting to move into a facility appears more achievable.

Hardik Hirani with Adarsh Sachdev

As we are getting older, our capacity to manage our home without external help is becoming more and more difficult. We need help with basic maintenance, lawn mowing and gardening. When I rang our contact person at Regional Assessment Service in August 2018 and communicated our needs, he was very helpful and referred us to My Aged Care.

I was told that once the referral is sent, the matter goes to different department in My Aged Care: my application will be in queue and I have to wait for my turn. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the phone call earlier than expected, and have our assessment organised with ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) in Dec 2018. Our assessor got a thorough idea of our needs in a detailed 3-hour meeting. With our limited capacity as a result of various health problems my husband and I were having, the assessor listed our needs for home assistance and explained exactly what she was going to ask for in our home care package application. She left us handouts to read, only after explaining what they were about.

We received a reply within the week despite the festive season. My husband was already referred to the local provider for restorative care. The service provider called us within a day, and provided details of the next step of the whole process. We were told someone will get in touch with us in the 3rd week of January – we are still waiting.

Meanwhile, we are organising the assessment for co-payment from Centrelink and reading about various providers. With so many providers in the market, it is quite daunting. We will need to do our homework before we sign up with one.

So far, our experience has been good. We understand that the government is really trying hard to put a system in place and readying to face the problem of an ageing population. It is going to be a steep learning curve for providers and users. It is time-consuming but they are being transparent at each step, I am sure it will fall into place. My advice to the seniors is to be proactive. Start the process well in advance. There will be many in queue, so the time factor is going to be crucial.

Nirmal Kapila

We all want to live a better life. But as we get older, it becomes harder to manage everything alone. The family is busy though they try to help. Some parents find it hard to trouble their children, as they have their own family to look after.

In that sense, the Government’s idea of funded ‘home care package’ within the comfort of our own home sounds great. One just has to register for this wonderful new idea. Children were happy with home care for parents, as they would be free to look after their own family, almost like good riddance, bad rubbish. Their parents will have good care and children are free from financial burden. So children started registering their parents. They are now relaxed and happy that their parents will be taken care of by professional carers.

Excellent. So far. But hang on! Is it really that good? We have seen some televised examples of shocking carers. Is life really better for parents? An old man was beaten with a shoe by his carer. The family had a camera on and were shocked. The carer was dismissed from the job, but who knows where he is employed next? How did the father feel? In a another case, cleaner supposed to assist a 93-year-old lady was shown hurting her. The cleaner was perhaps fined and thrown out, but what about the trauma the old lady suffered?

Radhamani

I am 87 years old. I was leading a comfortable life at home when misfortune hit me one morning, just before Christmas. As I was picking flowers from my garden for my morning prayers, my saree got caught in between two bricks and I fell hard on the grass patch.

I didn’t feel any pain so I ignored the bruises on my knees and subsequently carried on with my chores at home. A week later, I slipped in the bathroom while stepping out of the shower, fell on my back, and hit my skull. I wasn’t able to get up and didn’t know what to do and so I crawled towards my bedroom. With great effort, I picked myself up with the support of the bed. There was some pain, and a bump appeared at the back of my head.

My daughter took me to the GP. He tested me, advising that if I experience more pain, vomiting or headache, I should go for a scan. I was taken for a scan after 3 days as the headache persisted. I had internal bleeding, they called for an ambulance and I was admitted to the hospital. They also detected a fibula fracture from my previous fall. I was discharged after four days and advised four weeks rest, repeat the scan and then consult the neurosurgeon.

Since all members of my family are working, I asked my GP to refer me to a home care package. Being a member of social support group RAIN made me happy: I was able to meet my peers, and participate in interesting sessions and activities.

I also got referred to another CHSP service provider for getting domestic assistance services, which I was not happy with as they send a new person every time.  I wasn’t comfortable with strangers in my home, and some did not know how to clean! One left puddles of water while mopping, which I had to dry with a towel after she left. Finally I refused cleaners.

After two falls, I feel the need for services, so I have asked for the home care package so I have more options, including personal care. I have been assessed by Regional Assessment services, but my assessment with the ACAT team is yet to happen. It’s been two months now. Given my age, deteriorating health, and the falls, I don’t know how long I can wait.

I believe as a pensioner, being frail and old, I am eligible for such services. I pray that I get the support urgently and hope I won’t have to wait too long.

Veda Srinivasan

It was a hot October day and a busy day for me. We had to visit Helensburgh Temple for Vijayadashami Puja. It has been a tradition for us last 35 years in Sydney.

After we returned home, I felt I had a UTI infection. The doctor said he could not notice an infection and gave me some tablets. After four days, I acquired a high temperature. Since it was end of the week, we tried an after-hours medical assistance which took many hours to arrive. I had become delirious and started speaking to my husband Srini in Hindi! (It is not our first language). He realised that urgent help was needed and phoned for the Ambulance service. They asked us to consult our doctor, which we did the next day.

Within hours, I was admitted at the Emergency Ward of St. George Hospital. The specialists tested my blood right away, and the surgeon visited me that night a couple of times. Next morning, they informed me that my blood and some organs were infected. The Specialists, Doctors and staff were very kind and comforting through my treatment. I was discharged after eight days.

My sister, my daughter and all my friends, Sudha in particular from the RAIN group, helped me with food for a couple of weeks. Since we are vegetarians, we need help with food availability.

The social worker at the hospital observed that my husband (82 years) and I (77 years) lived alone at home. She advised us to call “My Aged Care”, where we had already registered, for help. I did it promptly and they organised an assessment within a week. They gave us a code to call some providers.

I have put my name forward for a few services and am waiting for another assessment. I am looking forward to a good home care package, which will help us live at home independently, for as long as possible.