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Home care crisis hits carers hard

August 08, 2019

The government's failure to provide enough home care packages for our elderly is pushing carers to the bottom of the heap.

There has been a third quarterly increase in the number of elderly Australians waiting for a home care package.

For every person waiting for a home care package there’s at least one, but usually two or more, carers under pressure as a result.

Long waiting times for home care packages can affect the capacity of older people to cope at home in both the short and longer term.

While they are waiting, their health is likely to decline and their need for support is likely to increase, making it difficult to stay at home unless they have family and friend carers who can provide the support they need.

Working carers may have to give up their jobs, while partner carers may also be ageing and not able to provide the level of care needed, or can only do so at the risk of their own health and wellbeing.

According to Carers Australia, 36 per cent of all carers are over the age of 65 and most are caring for a partner.

Their ability to keep on providing high levels of care will frequently depend on extra support from the aged care system.

Local resident Lorraine was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2017. She needs a wheelchair outside and uses a walking frame in her home.

“We applied and have been approved for a home care package level three mainly for home care and maintenance with some personal help,’ Lorraine said.

Lorraine was told she might have to wait a year after being approved for the service.

She has organised some interim help with household chores but her husband has become, out of necessity, her primary carer. Fortunately his health is good.

“He is my primary carer doing all the cooking, shopping and gardening and I do worry about the stress factor. I don’t want to see my husband get worn out,” she said.

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that we now have 129,000 Australians waiting for a home care package. Of those 76,000 have no home care at all.

This demonstrates the Liberal Government’s failure to recognise or properly respond to this crisis and reveals just how many family members, partners and friends are bearing the brunt of the government’s inaction.

Older Australians are ending up in emergency departments rather than being able to stay at home and receive the care they deserve.

Labor has been calling for action to reduce the waitlist since the first release of data in 2018.
Many older Australians are waiting more than 12 months for their approved package and some are waiting more than two years.