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Australia - Elderly Care

There are a number of programmes and services which are designed to help to provide care for the elderly in Australia. Most state governments have their own programmes and these are often broken down to provide local services in each town. Support services range from those who are providing assistance to elderly relatives in their own homes to nursing homes for full-time residents.

Most care services in Australia are being aimed at those over 75 years of age as it is considered that many people who are younger than this are now healthier than those in the same age group a few decades ago. The emphasis is on being able to provide support services to the elderly so that they are able to stay in their own homes and keep some independence.

Support comes in a number of forms. These begin with financial support, so the elderly are able to claim their pensions and a variety of benefits that can help them with rent for their own home or towards the cost of residential care, medical benefits and disability benefits if required. Financial assistance can also be paid to those who are caring for the elderly.

Specific programmes for care for the elderly are often run at state and local level. These can include respite care for those home carers who need to take a break, assistance for those carers who cannot manage alone, support programmes for dementia sufferers and those who care for them, home help services, transportation for those who need to visit hospitals and clinics and seniors cards which can help financially by providing discounts on a number of services. Local services often run clubs for the elderly who might not otherwise get the opportunity to socialise.

It is the country’s government which is responsible for funding and overseeing the residential care services which are provided in Australia. Care at this level falls into two categories. The first is high care (which used to be known as a nursing home) and the second is low care (hostel). It is considered that only a small percentage of those who are aged 65 and above are living in residential care – around 6%. The quality of residential care is generally good, but in many cases it is considered to be a last resort as the emphasis in Australia is ‘ageing in place’ – living and being cared for in your own home.

There are a number of services which have been designed to make it easier for ‘ageing in place’. These include the Home and Community Care Programme, which was set-up in 1985 and which provides services at a local level including home helps, health support and meals on wheels. It is estimated that this group provides services to around 600,000 elderly people each year. Community Aged Care Packages are designed for each individual that is being helped and these are funded by the Australian government. These provide for a range of healthcare services to be delivered in the individual’s own home.

However, if it is deemed that nursing home care is what is needed then an assessment will need to be carried out by a care assessment team. These usually consist of local medical professionals and social workers who are located in clinics or community facilities close by. Assessments can be carried out either at home or at a nearby hospital. It should be noted that residential homes are required to provide a minimum level of services. These include accommodation, low level care to all residents and high level for those who need it.

Accommodation in a care home will include dealing with administrative tasks, furnishings, bed linen, laundry services, cleaning, meals, staff on duty around the clock and general maintenance of the building and grounds. Low level care may include help with washing and dressing, assistance with medications, some rehabilitation support and help to access other necessary health services. High level care will include nursing services and extra help with personal care. Extra items such as walking frames and wheelchairs may be provided and items such as oxygen, continence aids and other therapies may be included.

Fees are often free of VAT (Goods and sales tax) and can be charged for basic daily care, accommodation and services. Fees will vary according to the home and the local authority.

All homes need to meet an accreditation standard to ensure that they are providing the best care. There are a number of agencies that can help if you feel that you or your loved one is not getting the best possible care. These include the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency which assesses for the accreditation and has offices in each state, the Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme and local advocacy services.

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