It is widely recognised that without continuing support by family and friend carers of older people, providing a comprehensive quality aged care system now and into the future would become unaffordable.
It is also increasingly recognised by Government that carers need support in their own right, both to sustain the caring role, and to preserve their own wellbeing.
Support services which can help you as a carer
Taking a planned break from caring – respite care
There are a number of ways you can take a break from caring for a few hours, a few days, or a couple of weeks while the person you care for is looked after by someone else either inside the home or outside the home.
These services are subsidised by the Australian Government, but you may also need to provide some contribution if you can afford to.
The main forms of respite care are:
- Community and flexible respite
- Residential respite
- Emergency respite
This can take the form of:
- Centre-based day care
- Having a paid care worker come to your home or take the person you care for out in the community for short periods during the day
- Overnight care or care for a few days in a dedicated respite home, sometimes referred to as cottage care, or in the home of a host family
In order to access Government subsidised community respite for the first time you will need to apply for an assessment by calling My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or apply online: https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/assessment/apply-online.
This will be followed by a face-to-face assessment by a Regional Assessment Service (RAS) provider. To learn more about a RAS assessment go to https://www.agedcareguide.com.au/information/ras.
To learn more about community respite care go to https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/short-term-care/respite-care
This care takes place in an aged care home, even if the person you are caring still lives in the community. It is generally available for periods of two weeks or more. The person you care for will receive short-term care in the aged care home.
The person you care for can access up to 63 days of subsidised respite care in a financial year, which can be extended by 21 days at a time in special circumstances.
In order to access residential respite care, the person you care for will need to have an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment (Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) in Victoria). To apply for an ACAT assessment, go to the eligibility checker and online assessment form at https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/assessment/apply-online. Or you can contact the customer service centre of My Aged Care on 1800 200 422. Health or aged care professionals can also refer patients for an assessment https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/make-a-referral
To learn more about ACAT/ACAS assessments go to https://www.agedcareguide.com.au/information/acat-acas
A circumstance many carers dread is having to find replacement care quickly when they are not able to provide that care. It may be that the carer has a health emergency or an emergency affecting other family members. It might be the sudden illness or death of a friend or relative. There are many reasons why carers may need to step away from their care role for a period at short notice.
To arrange emergency respite care, call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737
It is always a good idea to make an emergency plan which should include:
- Personal information about the person you care for (name, age, condition, health)
- Details of emergency contacts
- The medical history of the person you care for
- Aa list of medications and how and when they should be given
- The person’s care needs
- A list of the regular support services they get and upcoming appointments
- Anything else you think would be useful
More information on emergency planning is available at https://www.carergateway.gov.au/help-advice/planning which includes an emergency care plan form and an emergency card which you can carry in your wallet.
Helpful link: My Aged Care Questions about respite care and carers
Other assistance to carers of older people
In addition to emergency respite care, the Carer Gateway also assists carers to access supports to promote their own wellbeing.
The My Aged Care website has information specific to carers, including caring for someone living at home or within an aged care home, and how to become a My Aged Care Authorised Representative.
Helpful link: information for carers https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone
Many local councils have support services for carers of older people, ranging from support groups, to targeted advice for carers to help them navigate the service system and what other assistance is available locally or within your state or territory, outside of My Aged Care funded services.
To find your local council visit https://alga.asn.au/resources/local-government-associations/
Carers may be eligible for specific financial support payments from the Australian Government to assist with their living costs, providing they live in Australia and meet residence requirements and they are not in receipt of another Government pension or income support allowance.
Further information is available on the Carers Australia website at https://www.carersaustralia.com.au/support-for-carers/centrelink-payments-for-carers/
Caring for someone with incontinence is also recognised as a particularly difficult role. It can be a very isolating experience because of social stigma for the person with incontinence and the person caring for them when they are out in the community and in gatherings with families and friends.
Support information is available on the https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone-incontinence and from the Continence Foundation of Australia https://www.continence.org.au/life-incontinence/management
The Continence Foundation also runs a helpline staffed by qualified continence nurses between 8.00am and 8.00pm (AEST) from Monday to Friday. Call 1800 330 066.
A National Public Toilet Map website is available at https://toiletmap.gov.au/
Help to resolve queries and complaints about aged care service provision
You or the person you are caring for may be having problems with a provider of home services, or you may have concerns in relation to a residential aged care provider.
Provides free services to support older people and their representatives to address issues related to Commonwealth funded aged care.
A professional OPAN advocate will:
- Listen to you and understand your views and wishes
- Inform you of your rights and responsibilities
- Assist you to explore your options and make informed decisions
- Provide practical assistance, such as writing a letter or other ways of raising your concerns
- Speak for you in situation where you don’t feel confident about speaking for yourself
You can call OPAN on 1800 700 600
Further information is available at https://opan.org.au/advocacy/
The role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of people receiving aged care. They are responsible for resolving complaints about Commonwealth subsidised aged care services.
Any person, including a carer, can make a complaint about an Australian Government funded aged care provider to the Commission. Complaints may relate to any aspect of service including care, choice of activities, discrimination, catering, communication or the physical environment.
Complaints about the aged care service can be made by calling 1800 951 822 or visit the Commission’s website https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/making-complaint/lodge-complaint
Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
Carers Australia was actively involved into the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, both through appearing before the Commission and through the following submissions:
- Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Response to Counsel Assisting’s Final Recommendations
- Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Response to the Home Care Hearing Draft Propositions
- Submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Carers need a place to call home within aged care
- Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Response to Consultation Paper 1 – Program Design in Aged Care
Carers Australia has undertaken an analysis of the Australia Government response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect.
The final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission recognised both the value of and the challenges faced by carers and made a number of recommendations to better support carers. We will continue to work with the Australian Government in implementing the recommendations that may have an impact on carers or that aim to preserve the wellbeing of cares of older people.