Aged care is a big issue on the Central Coast, with one in five of us aged over 65, and one in six of us employed in healthcare and social assistance.
We all want the best for older Australians, but there are challenges facing aged care that we need to address, not the least of which is the Federal Government’s failure to commit one more dollar to the sector in this year’s Budget.
There are an estimated 105,000 people waiting for home care packages across Australia – 750 of these on the Central Coast.
Many have dementia and high needs, and it is unsafe that they are left waiting for help. But waiting is what many do – for a year or more – for help at home.
In the Budget, the Government announced it was releasing 14,000 new home care packages over the next three years – but there was a catch. No new money was injected into aged care, so residential places will have to be cut.
With the waiting list for home care packages growing by 20,000 in six months, the situation is unfair and unsafe.
Given the challenges locals are facing, I brought Labor’s Medicare Taskforce, a committee driving discussions and informing policy on health and ageing, to meet with locals at The Entrance Community Centre and hear first-hand our challenges and success stories.
Earlier in the day, I took Taskforce chair Sharon Claydon MP and secretary Dr Mike Freelander MP to Bupa Bateau Bay to see the University of Newcastle’s Senior Smiles oral hygiene program in action, and to join in the regular Wednesday playgroup that meets in the aged care facility.
Both of these are great programs, and it was particularly delightful to see children interacting with older residents. We were privileged to meet with Dr Janet Wallace, the founder of the Senior Smiles program, which has attracted generous funding from the Elderslee Foundation to work in 14 aged care facilities.
I was also pleased to introduce the Taskforce to members of the Central Coast Dementia Alliance, who are powering ahead with their plans to make the Coast a dementia-friendly community.
Many people have already contacted me about issues they are having with aged care, especially the long wait for home care packages. If I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.