This crisis, as others have said, is largely of the government’s own doing. The Prime Minister was Treasurer when the government cut $1.7 billion from aged care. Now there are close to 97,000 older Australians waiting for a home-care package during COVID, when many people and families are afraid of entering residential care. Those needing more support while waiting for level 4 packages are often waiting more than a year for the help that they and their families and carers so desperately need. Over 28,000 older Australians have died while waiting for a home-care package. They’re not a rate, Minister; they’re not a percentage to compare to the wider population. These are people; these are mums and dads and grandparents; these are people who matter. And you have reduced them to a rate or a percentage; that is a disgrace. In my community, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, one in five people are aged over 65 and there are currently 1,109 people waiting for a home-care package—people like Enid, who, at 96, was told she would have to wait 12 months for a level 4 home-care package. It’s not good enough.
Growing old is not easy. As the interim report observed—and I think it is important that this be read onto the record—’we avoid thinking and talking about it, leading to an apparent indifference where, left out of sight and out of mind, these important services are left floundering’. I know of people, some living with dementia, who, after a fall or a hospital stay, have ended up in residential care after their families and carers have become exhausted trying to keep them at home. I was with my Dad when, after an exhausting battery of tests, he was finally diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s dementia. He said to me: ‘You will never leave me dribbling in a nursing home.’ This is a very real fear for many people living with dementia, and I am determined to keep my promise to my mum, Barbie, that it will be better for other families. But kind words and good intentions won’t help people like my dad’s friend Steve, who was moved into residential care during COVID. It has to be better; it’s urgent. What the government have done so far suggests that they don’t care and don’t know that it matters.