We are all getting older, whatever age we are! One day, those not so old will join the older people brigade. Therefore, it would be wise to make sure we care for older people.
You may have read or heard about the care of older people at the Oakden Nursing Home in Adelaide. It was closed last month after years of complaints. In the meantime, older people had been abused and neglected. Senator Nick Xenophon has called for an inquiry. Is this though, just the tip of the iceberg? What is happening for older people who are unable to speak for themselves, unable to care for themselves? Who cares?
Bringing the matter closer to home my mother is an older person. In July, she will be 91 years old. Older people are now living longer. Are people living longer due to genetics or because of medical intervention and diet? As people are living longer is it time to redefine what is “old”.
My mother had a myagedcare assessment a few months ago. Myagedcare is an Australian Government service for older people. The myagedcare website is where older people can find out about and access a range of services. My mother, who is vision impaired, received a letter telling her about an assignment of a package for services. The letter given to me for further assessment! It is up to my mother to find an approved provider for the services she requires. She was given information about the website and the tool whereby she could compare services in her area. Alternatively, she could call an 1800 number for help to find an appropriate service provider. Then there was the paragraph about costs and the contribution she may be asked to make. I read the letter several times to understand it and went on the website to find out more information about the process, service providers and costs. It was perplexing and I consider myself internet savvy! What would happen if my mother did not have “older” children who cared about her? Who would be her advocate?
Eventually, I gave up finding information on the website and made a phone call. Following this I became an authorised representative for my mother. My mother is already receiving services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) for transport assistance. The letter from myagedcare advised that she had been assigned a “level two home care” package. The cost of this would be a minimum of $141.40 a day. The only advantage of this is that she would have approval to engage a provider for domestic support.
My question to myagedcare was why not add-on the service to her CHSP? Was this possible? The person I was speaking to could not transfer me through to the CHSP area at that time – possibly something to do with all the enquiries after the flooding in Queensland! Could I call back in a week if I did not hear back by then? Eight days later I spoke to another person at myagedcare. She was very helpful and said that yes, my mother could be assigned “domestic support” as part of her CHSP. This was assigned to her and I was told that an assessor would phone in a few weeks saying it was approved. It is three weeks gone now and neither my mother or I have heard back. In the meantime, my mother receives a phone call asking her if she is taking up her “home care” package? She referred them to me. I never received the call!
The point is, as far as I can understand it, that my mother would be paying out a considerable amount of money just to have her unit cleaned every fortnight via the “home care package”. On the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) adding domestic support would only cost her as much as the provider charged. My mother also has the option of engaging a private cleaner and paying their fee without being bound to a costly “home care agreement”. Currently, her home support needs are low.
Navigating the aged care system is very complex and time-consuming. It can also be very costly for the person receiving the service. If an older person lives solely on an aged care pension then they may need to rely on a State run facility for their care needs. This is risky business for older people. Their dignity, security and peace of mind cannot be assured.
With all the “shifting sand” of government legislation and policy older people are in deep water! Many have no one reliable or trustworthy to help. If you are not disturbed by the Oakden situation and the rights of older people read more here. Older people and their family have good reason for concern.
Yesterday, my sister Christine visited with her husband John. We took them to the State Rose Garden, Newtown Park. This was near the house my sister and I spent most of our growing up years. We wandered by the house. It had recently been sold. It had sat unattended for some time, it was abandoned and neglected. This is something we must not let happen to older people today or tomorrow. We took a few photos for old times’ sake. We remembered the happy times. My sister reminded me of our hand prints in the outdoor patio. How amazing we got to take the photo. Anytime soon, the house will be demolished.
My sister Susan passed away when she was 30 years old, my brother Kenneth as an infant. They will never be an “older person” – were they handed a gift, few of us can understand? The gift of a short life? They never had to worry about being an “older person” and relying on others so that their basic needs could be met, valued and respected. Taking this perspective, at least for me, is comforting.