Our parents come from a generation that didn’t make a fuss and ‘just got on with it’, highly valuing independence. As our parents age, they grapple with the increased frailty that is associated with the ageing processes. Their physical strength declines, mobility becomes impaired, and some may develop cognitive impairment. There are many reasons our ageing parents will need support as they age.
As adult “children” who want to support our parents, we face many challenges. Ageing parents want to continue living in their own homes, often unwilling to acknowledge they are needing more support. They are so independent and stoic that they won’t accept support and family members often cannot agree on a united plan with their siblings about the best way forward for mum and dad.
The key to supporting ageing parents in this situation is to initiate conversations about future planning before a crisis happens, as support and service assessments take time.
If you’re thinking your ageing mum or dad might be needing some support, or more importantly, if you as a family are already providing support, then the time to act and progress both conversations and referrals to aged care support is now.
1. Start Thinking About What Support is Needed
Informal support provided by family members or neighbours is generally initiated as our parents age. This support might include chores such as mowing the yard, cooking meals, arranging tradespeople on their behalf, coordinating appointments and taking them to those appointments, organising groceries, and more. This kind of support is accepted by our ageing parents as most families acknowledge that our parents took care of us, so we do the same as they age. But what many adult “children” don’t realise is that over time, the level of support the family is providing increases and once the level of support is no longer sustainable, urgent outside support can be very difficult to arrange.
The good news is, there are many government subsidised programs for in-home care. These programs have different eligibility criteria and different levels of support, and by understanding what all these programs are and how they can be used according to the person’s circumstances, it is possible to access the most appropriate support.
All programs are accessible via My Aged Care, the gateway to all services and supports that are subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Registering with My Aged Care is the first step to progressing through screenings and assessments and gaining access approval for the government programs offered to ageing people.
2. Reflect on Your Individual Situation and Needs
You should only contact My Aged Care when you’ve taken the time to reflect on your loved one’s situation, thought about all the support that is being provided and written down what this support is and how many hours each week it adds up to. You also need to reflect on the toll ongoing support is taking on you and other family members. This point is very important, so be honest with yourself.
As mentioned previously, receiving support under the aged care program takes time, sometimes many months, so how you are feeling now needs to be borne in mind as the months progress while waiting for government support to start. Contact with My Aged Care is something to be considered carefully. Preparation before contacting My Aged Care is key to ensuring the initial screening process accurately reflects your older loved one’s needs and considers the sustainability of your role as a carer.
3. Contact My Aged Care
My Aged Care is a call centre, just like a Telstra call centre or an airline call centre. The staff at My Aged Care are not clinicians and they don’t have a background in aged care. They receive limited training in the government’s aged care program and cannot answer your questions personally; their answers are scripted and generic.
During the initial contact with My Aged Care, the call centre staff will begin the screening process for your loved one. If you aren’t prepared and haven’t given thought to the amount of support the family or neighbours are providing and don’t have a list in front of you, then it is likely your loved one will be referred to the wrong assessment team and miss out on the full range of services. You need to drive the conversation with My Aged Care!
The call centre staff at My Aged Care have a questionnaire they complete with everyone who contacts them. This questionnaire doesn’t cover all the things we, as aged care specialists, take into consideration when assessing people comprehensively. And the answers you’re able to give don’t allow for a detailed conversation about your older loved one’s needs. Driving the conversation by articulating your loved one’s needs will place them in a stronger position to get better outcomes.
4. Wait for Approval or Request a Support Plan Review if Urgent Needs Arise
After a referral has been triggered within My Aged Care and an assessment has been completed, people will be approved for in-home support. The support approved will depend on which assessment team has completed the assessment. There are waiting lists for all services and supports and these waiting lists can vary from weeks to months before support can be provided.
You can, however, request a Support Plan Review if your loved one’s needs are increasing but services haven’t yet commenced. Asking for a Support Plan Review or a priority review as it is also known, alerts the assessment
team that a situation of urgency exists.
If you’re waiting for services to start and struggle to keep supporting your ageing parents, you should contact My Aged Care again and be very assertive, stating your case relating to risk. The risk of your older loved one prematurely entering an aged care facility because you cannot keep going without formal support is a big red flag to assessors and will trigger a review for a higher priority to receive services, thereby decreasing the wait time significantly. Essentially, it will push your older loved one forward in the national queue and they’ll be assigned services and support sooner.
Allocation of funding is not defined by particular services required. Instead, the funding is allocated as a monthly subsidy that the recipient can use for whatever they want. Some may want cleaning, others may not, it’s entirely the recipients choice as to how they want to spend their funding. There are four levels of Home Care Packages, from level 1 for basic care needs to level 4 for high care needs. Each different level attracts a different amount of subsidy. Many people refer to this as the value of the package.