The aged care system – a personal experience

Emma McBride MP

Perspective by Emma McBride MP

The Central Coast has always been a popular place for older people to live: a relaxed coastal lifestyle; good healthcare; and a day trip into the city to visit old friends.

It’s no surprise that one in five locals are aged over 65.

At the same time, if you or a family member need aged care, it may be hard to find.

I found this out, much sooner than expected, when my Dad, Grant, was diagnosed with younger onset dementia in 2013.

Despite my background as a pharmacist and years working in mental health, nothing prepared me for being a carer and navigating the aged care system.

One of the first hurdles is an ACAT assessment, your entry into the aged care system.

The Morrison Government tried to privatise our community ACAT teams and only backed down after pressure from Labor and aged care advocates.

The next step is likely to be a Homecare package, support that people rely on to stay in their own homes and peace of mind for families often living far away.

As of March, 1,226 locals were waiting for a federally funded home care package.

The wait time for high level home care packages is now over 12 months, leaving many people stranded and vulnerable at home.

The pressure that this places on families is immense.

They are forced to provide high level care while they wait for the government to sort out their package.

Unfortunately, for many, the wait is so long that they need residential aged care before ever receiving that crucial home support.

Wait times for suitable residential care can stretch for months, and respite care is capped and can be expensive.

Over the last 12 months, three aged care homes on the Coast have closed, including the dementia unit at The Orchards, Lisarow.

Japara Wyong was purchased in 2018 with the view to redevelopment and, despite investment by the new owners, is closing its doors.

The federal government is responsible for aged care across Australia.

I have written to Senator Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, this week, seeking his assurance that residents of Japara and their families will be supported to find new places to live nearby.

Sadly, we have seen from outbreaks in Sydney and Victoria that COVID has put further pressure on a system that has been in crisis for years.

The federal government cut $1.2B from aged care when Scott Morrison was Treasurer and have spent less than half the money promised during COVID-19.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care has heard harrowing testimony of abuse and neglect of older people in care.

Its interim report was called ‘Neglect’, which is not a word that any Australian wants to associate with care of their loved ones.

The Morrison Government has been criticised by the Royal Commission for failing to adequately prepare the sector for COVID.

Recently, the Prime Minister flatly rejected the Commissioner’s recommendation for a national COVID-19 co-ordinating authority for aged care.

That’s after the recent outbreak at Saint Basil’s and following tragedies at Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge in NSW.

The government must act urgently to fix the crisis.

A good start would be proper funding and improved transparency so that providers will show how much of the money they receive from the government actually goes to quality care.

Fair pay, better conditions and improved training and support for aged care workers is crucial if we are to lift the standards of care.

I want to thank all the aged care workers in our community who are doing the most important work.

Right now workers need access to personal protective equipment and proper training in infection prevention and control to protect them and the people they’re looking after.

All I wanted for my father was for him to die with dignity.

It’s all that any of us want.

There is no more urgent priority for the Morrison Government than fixing the aged care system.

Emma McBride MP
Member for Dobell, Shadow Assistant Minister for Carers and for Mental Health