Navigating the Aged Care System
As people age, it is inevitable that they begin to experience struggles that previously did not exist for them, things like memory loss and remembering to take medications, feeling isolated, maintaining tasks around the house, kneeling in the garden or a general feeling of just not coping.
It is at this time that our elderly feels most vulnerable and in need of additional care and support. Either by choice, or by the suggestion from close family or friends, they begin to question and seek out their aged care options.
Starting the process – My Aged Care.
My Aged Care is the starting point to access Australian Government-funded aged care services. While it is a useful tool, it can be somewhat confusing to navigate.
To apply for an aged care assessment, there are certain criteria that needs to be met before an application is even accepted. Once in the system, and a wait time of approx. 4 months, an initial face-to-face discussion will be arranged by the aged care assessment team (ACAT) to assess the level of care and types of services available. This can be the first of many, many discussions. The process of explaining their situation becomes repetitive, strained and exhausting.
This is followed by a long wait time, with few updates about the progression of their application or availability of home care packages. In short, it’s a waiting game of around 12-18 months. Residential care is subject to triage and waitlist, dependant on availability of beds.
Many individuals, families or carers find this waiting period to be a highly stressful. Prolonged waiting periods often follow a specific trajectory: a decline in function or ability, often resulting in falls and unnecessary hospitalisations. The wait time is the result due to the lack of government funding available for the provision of care. Recent results from the Royal Commission interim report have shown that there is still a $2billion deficit in funds required to address the people already awaiting their home care packages.
Once a package is offered, there is the daunting task of working out which providers are most suitable and what fees they charge for their different services. The highest level of home care package is level 4 which only equates to a maximum 14 hrs of assistance per week. While residential care offers 24 hr around the clock care. Both of which are means tested.
Recently the Royal Commission also ascertained that certain home care providers and residential care homes across Australia were found to not have met the Aged Care Quality Standards. While all of this appears to sound concerning, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission are currently addressing these issues to ensure quality care is being provided to all Australians.
Now that we have added complications due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, many restrictions have been put in place that make it more difficult for families to navigate the aged care system. Restrictions on home visits, face-to-face meetings, tours of facilities and are now in place. This is a tricky situation indeed, especially for home care options.
So, where does this leave you?
Many advocates and aged care providers have your best interest at heart. Finding the right care option is simply a matter of having someone who knows the system and can navigate it for you.
How to prepare for aged care?
If you or your family are approaching the need for additional care, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you receive the appropriate level of care available.
Understand the terminology
Using the correct terminology and knowing what to ask for is key. This will minimise the stress and uncertainty of the approval process, helping you create a care solution that is appropriate, accessible and affordable.
Have a plan.
Sit down with your loved one and discuss the needs and priorities of the individual and family. This can include: time frame, types of care, pricing, the desired location of care, available activities, additional services, and any need for specialty or dementia care.
Discuss your needs.
Make time for an in-depth discussion about the precise reasons you or your loved one require additional care. Include information about any health concerns, such as illness, anxiety, isolation, frequent falls or reduced capacity. Also discuss external needs for support, such as cooking or cleaning. In the interim, write up a care plan to ensure family and friends provide continuity of care and a scheduled routine until additional support is available.
Aim to write at least a few short dot points about you or your loved ones needs and expectations for care. This will help ensure nothing is missed over the course of applications, assessments and interviews.
It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at the number of decisions required to secure aged care providers and placement. There are multiple phone calls forms, applications, interviews and assessments that need to be carried out. Availability and affordability are also in question.
It’s a lot for one person to handle!
If you find that you’re completely overwhelmed by this process, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Well Placed Care is here to help make your aged care journey simple and straightforward.
It’s a matter of having a good understanding of the industry, its complex requirements and knowing the difference between each provider and which ones will cater to the needs of your loved one. Although independent, we have strong long-term and valued relationships with many quality providers that will negotiate discounted pricing for us and fast track our admissions.
Here at Well Placed Care, we have the industry knowledge. We will take the stress out of everything for you by managing the whole process and any submissions to relevant authorities and organisations with pride.