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Inclusive aged care: What are special needs groups?

The Government has identified a number of groups of people as 'special needs' groups when it comes to aged care services.
A group of diverse older people.
Aged care providers need to provide adequate care and services to all, no matter their personal or diverse background. [Source: iStock]

Key Points:

  • A number of groups of people are considered 'special needs' groups when it comes to accessing aged care services

  • Some aged care services may cater to a specific cultural background or environment, however, they cannot discriminate against anyone accessing aged care

  • Extra supplements or subsidies may be available and will be paid directly to your aged care provider

Aged care providers are required to consider all the needs of these special needs groups in their provision of care. 

All aged care providers have to provide services to every 'special needs' group, no matter the type of facility or its location.

There are ten groups that have been identified as a special needs group.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI)

The care needs of older Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people can be quite specific and there is a cultural element that needs to be considered in the delivery of care. 

An ATSI person aged 50 or older is able to receive Government funded aged care services. However, in some cases, this could be based on need rather than age.

Some homes specifically provide care for ATSI clients. 

These providers offer culturally specific services for ATSI people, which takes into account the importance of culture and heritage, as well as their connection to the land and community.

The Government funded National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Care Programme is delivering flexible and culturally appropriate home and residential care services to ATSI clients, close to their home and community. 

Care delivered under this program has been developed specifically for individual ATSI clients and incorporates cultural activities and ceremonies, access to natural environments and respects cultural traditions. 

Visit the Aged Care Guide search engine to find aged care homes and service providers that have indicated to cater for ATSI clients.

Care leavers

A care leaver is a person who, as a child or youth, spent time in institutional care or other types of out of home care like orphanages, children’s homes or foster care. 

Examples of care leavers are Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants or Stolen Generations. 

Recent South Australian research has found that care leavers have intense fear directed towards aged care services because of childhood trauma from living in institutions.

At a young age, care leavers quite often had to deal with feelings of loss, abandonment and grief because of separation from parents and siblings. 

While growing up in a foreign environment, many children also suffered from neglect, exploitation, mistreatment and physical and/or sexual assault at the hands of their caregivers. 

A large number of these care leavers are now reaching an age where they need to consider moving into aged care. 

Because of their experiences in institutionalised care, aged care has been flagged as an area that can cause distress and anxiety. 

Aged care providers should be made aware if they have a care leaver within their facility so they can change the delivery of care to not cause distress and make a care leavers time in aged care more enjoyable and positive.

Head to the Department of Health website for more information about care leavers

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

Some aged care services are designed specifically for people who are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD). They might have staff that speak a foreign language, specific cultural activities or meet spiritual needs. 

To support the needs of older people from CALD backgrounds, the Government introduced the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds. 

This strategy helps aged care providers to deliver quality care and aims to make culturally appropriate aged care more accessible. 

All aged care providers must be inclusive of all CALD backgrounds and people in their care, however, some providers may have more of a focus on specific cultures through staff members, food and environment.

For example, a nursing home could cater towards Chinese residents with staff who speak Mandarin or Cantonese, providing cultural specific food and music. The facility still has to provide care to people who do not have a Chinese background.

It can also be difficult for a CALD person to access aged care services and information. The Government has funded an organisation in each State and Territory to help educate providers on how to deliver culturally appropriate care to older people with CALD backgrounds.

Known as Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC), these organisations undertake training, workshops and development sessions to improve the aged care sector for all.

Moving into an aged care facility can be difficult for anyone, but especially for someone with limited English language or who has developed dementia and is reverting back to their native tongue.

To search for aged care homes and service providers catering for CALD clients near you, search listings on the Aged Care Guide.

If you need the assistance of a translator when contacting organisations such as My Aged Care or an aged care provider, the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) can help you on 131 450

Disability

In Australia, one in five people live with some form of disability and this number increases with age. 

There are many different types of disability such as physical, intellectual, sensory, learning, psychiatric or a combination of any of these. 

Some may be pre-existing disabilities, they can be disabilities due to health conditions like a stroke, or be part of the ageing process, such as dementia.

If you have a disability, are over 65 years of age and currently receive support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), visit the NDIS website or phone 1800 800 110 to find out what services are available to you. 

The Disability Support Pension is also available for anyone that is not eligible for the NDIS, but still requires help with their disability.

Home Care Packages and the CHSP also have supports available for older people with disability.

If you are in a residential aged care home, your provider should be making efforts to meet all of your personal and health care needs. The nursing home would be utilising Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) to pay for higher care needs.

Financially or socially disadvantaged

You should not ever be denied an aged care service you require, even if you don't have the money to pay for it. 

If you have genuine difficulty paying aged care fees and charges, financial hardship provisions may apply. These allow for your fees and charges to be reduced or waived. 

Single older women have the highest likelihood of being financially disadvantaged. Older people that don't own their own home or are still paying off their mortgage may also experience being financially disadvantaged.

Older people may be considered socially disadvantaged if they are isolated and do not have strong social networks, like family or friends, to lean on for their support.

If you are socially disadvantaged, Home Care Packages, Centre Based Care or the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) can connect you with social activities.

Financial hardship assistance applications will be considered on your overall financial circumstance. This includes your total income and assets, your eligibility for a pension, and whether you have income or assets which you can use to pay your care fees. 

If you require financial assistance, this could be through the Aged Pension, the Disability Support Pension, or a Mobility Allowance.

Additionally, you may be eligible for Rent Assistance, Concession cards, or even get rebates from the Government for water or electricity bills.

If you require financial advice, contact the Financial Information Service (FIS) on 13 23 00.

Or, if you need to lodge for financial hardship, head to the Services Australia website.

Homeless

The trauma of no home or living on the streets can take a toll, both physically and mentally, on a person who is homeless.

There are multiple reasons why a person could become homeless - because of a housing crisis, domestic and family violence, or financial issues, just to name a few.

Homeless people can age much quicker, sometimes showing ageing symptoms similar to that of a person 20 years older.

If you are currently homeless, or if you’re at risk of becoming homeless, there may be Government funded services available to you that can help solve your housing problems, or assist with financial or legal issues. 

The Homeless Supplement aims to better support aged care providers in providing care to people who were homeless or at severe risk of becoming homeless at the time they entered permanent residential care.

LGBTIQ

The experience for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) people throughout their lifetime can sometimes be of rejection, persecution and discrimination. 

Many older LGBTIQ people may hide their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity on a daily basis because they continue to fear discrimination. 

Moving into a home could trigger increases in fear for an older LGBTIQ person, especially being close to other people from the same generation where the LGBTIQ community wasn't as accepted as it is today.

Through the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, the Government aims to ensure LGBTIQ people have access to the same opportunities and options in aged care that are available to all Australians. 

All LGBTI people should be experiencing fair access to appropriate ageing and aged care services in Australia.

It is designed not only to raise awareness of the issues, but also improve the ageing and aged care experience of LGBTIQ people, recognising and valuing the diversity of this group. 

The Rainbow Tick Accreditation program recognises the commitment of aged and community care organisations that have implemented LGBTIQ inclusive service delivery.

Rainbow Tick Accreditation provides assurance to LGBTIQ consumers and staff that an organisation will be responsive to their needs. 

Aged care homes and service providers that have indicated to cater for LGBTIQ clients are searchable on the Aged Care Guide. 

Parents of forced adoption or removed children

Similar to care leavers, parents separated from their children by forced adoption or removal are considered a special needs group.

Between 1951 and 1971, the peak period for forced adoptions, 250,000 children were adopted to new families.

Unwed mothers often had no choice when their child was taken. Most of the mothers were unmarried, however, there were instances where women were married.

In some cases, a child was immediately marked up for adoption from the moment they were born without the mother's authority or knowledge.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies found that forced adoptions had huge impacts on the parent's mental wellbeing.

The forced separation during the period left mothers and fathers with a higher likelihood of severe mental disorders and PTSD.

This can make it difficult for forced adoption parents to trust an institution or aged care facility. And some elderly residents who have lived through this may be triggered on birthdays or during events.

Rural and regional clients

If you live in a rural or regional area it may be harder to access the aged care services that you need. 

Services offered in rural and regional areas will depend on the needs of the whole community and sometimes aged care, health, and community services are combined to meet local health needs. 

The Government has introduced services and programs specifically for rural and remote areas to ensure people living in isolated areas have access to similar levels of care as people living in cities. 

Many rural and regional aged care services receive supplements depending on their location.

Multi-Purpose Service's (MPS) were created to help rural and remote communities access health and aged care services.

These MPS' operate in communities that are too small for a separate hospital and aged care home by combining services. All MPS facilities provide residential care and some form of in home care support.

Veterans

Veterans have a ‘special needs’ status to support complex medical requirements that include the need for high levels of emotional and cultural support in old age as a result of a veterans’ wartime experience/s. 

At the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RSL Care South Australia (SA), Nathan Klinge, told the Commission that veterans age quicker and enter aged care sooner than the rest of the general population.

Due to the impact of veteran's past life, it can affect their sense of wellbeing, physical health and mental health.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides multiple in home and community support programmes available for older veterans to continue living at home independently while still having their health, wellbeing and socialisation supported.

The Veterans’ Home Care program can help with in home support, and the Veterans’ Supplement aims to improve access to residential aged care for veterans with mental health conditions. 

This may include conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety disorders, depression or substance misuse disorders. 

In residential aged care, a Veterans’ Supplement is paid directly to the nursing home, as long as you have provided consent to disclose your eligibility information to the provider. Payment is ongoing for the duration of the time you are in care. 

For more information about home and community care for veterans, visit the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website or call 133 254. 

What is hindering you from accessing the aged care services you require? Tell us in the comments below.

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