Australia has an increasing ageing population, putting greater pressure on the aged care sector and public health system. The need to access aged care services in Australia is rapidly increasing with more than 10% of over 65s accessing government funded aged care services.
Many older Australians experience changes to their health and ability to manage activities of daily living. Receiving government funded support is necessary for many. Support may include continence management, or medication management to name a few. Help and support can mean that many older Australians get to stay at home and live independently for much longer.
According to Aged Care Prepare, you can start the process of accessing aged care services by contacting My Aged Care on 1800 200 422. My Aged Care is an Australian federal government service that supports and guides ageing Australians to access aged care services. They’re the entry point to the aged care system in Australia.
To get approval to access government subsidised aged care, you’ll need to arrange an assessment by calling My Aged Care. They will then arrange for you to have either an assessment with the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).
Following on from your assessment, you’ll receive a letter of approval from My Aged Care outlining the services that you’ve been approved for.
You could be approved for a number of services including residential aged care, respite care, residential respite care, and other flexible care. You could also be approved for a home care package. A home care package has 4 levels. Level 1 supports people with basic care needs, and it moves up to level 4 being the highest, which supports people with high level care needs.
Once you receive approval for a home care package, you’ll need to wait for a home care package to be assigned. You’ll automatically be placed in the national queue until a package becomes available to you. This can take some time, and you may need to access alternative aged care services in the interim. Don’t be afraid to contact My Aged Care or the assessor from ACAT if you need help immediately or if your circumstances change. Many people are unaware of what support is available, and consequently they don’t access the aged care services that are offered.
As previously mentioned, many people take time to access a home care package following approval as they have to wait for the assignment of a package. But, many people take some time to access other services too. According to a recent study published in the Australasian Journal of Ageing, 22% to 28% of individuals with approval for aged care services in Australia didn’t access them. But the study did suggest that home care is becoming increasingly desirable for older individuals but that “it does not seem to be accessed by those with major functional limitations, highlighting potential unmet needs for individuals with higher care requirements who wish to remain at home.” (Inacio, et al., 2020).
Approximately 30% of people living in Australia were born overseas. This includes many older Australians. And for around 23% of people, English is their 2nd language (Census 2011). Many culturally and linguistically diverse seniors face barriers to accessing aged care support services in Australia. This is often a result of not knowing where to access services. It may also be due to a lack of confidence to ask for help. Or other factors such as social isolation due to language barriers. With this in mind, there’s an increased risk of culturally and linguistically diverse Australians going without the help and support that they require.
Living in rural and remote areas is also a barrier to accessing aged care support services. According to Baldwin, Stephens, & Daniel Sharp (2013), over 11% of Australians aged over 70 years lived in rural and remote areas. The availability of aged care services in these areas is significantly smaller than in built up communities.
While lack of availability of services and resources is one barrier to accessing aged care support, other factors include costs. Many older Australians are asked to supplement their government funded aged care services if they’re able to do so. And some aged care facilities are very expensive.
Finally, many older Australians simply don’t know what services are available and how to go about accessing them. This can be the greatest barrier to accessing government funded aged care services. If you feel that you need aged care support, consider making an appointment with your doctor. There you can discuss your health status and care needs further. You can also contact My Aged Care on 1800 200422.
Baldwin, R., Stephens, M., & Daniel Sharp, J. K. (2013). Issues facing aged care services in rural and remote Australia. https://www.nintione.com.au.
Inacio, M. C., Amare, A. T., Whitehead, C., Bray, S. C., Corlis, M., Visvanathan, R., & Wesselingh., s. (2020). Factors associated with accessing aged care services in Australia after approval for services: Findings from the historical cohort of the Registry of Senior Australians. Australas J Ageing, 39, e382-e392.
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