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What is an aged care advocate?

Last Updated at July 28th 2021
If you have any worries, concerns or complaints about aged care services you are receiving, it can be difficult to let your provider know that you feel you are not receiving adequate care and services.

Key Points: 

  • There are formal and informal advocates that can help you with any issues that arise while receiving care and services from a provider

  • Advocates help empower older people through teaching them their rights when receiving aged care

  • Aged care advocates are free to engage if you are receiving Government funded aged care services

An older couple going to see an aged care advocate
Aged care advocates can be a great mediator during awkward, scary and difficult discussions with your providers. [Source: Shutterstock]

If you feel unsure about talking to your service provider about your concerns an aged care advocate can help you.

Advocates provide a variety of support and services to older people who require assistance in handling matters with their providers.

It is an important role within aged care that supplies impartial advice and support to older Australians in their times of need.

What do advocates do?

Aged care advocates can help you take control when you feel you need to discuss your situation with your service provider. They can help you understand your rights and options as well as talk through the best way to address your concerns.

Their aim is to educate and support you to achieve the best outcome and in some cases can even speak on your behalf.

Advocates can be a great mediator during these awkward, scary and difficult discussions with providers.

An advocate aims to represent your views and interests, and can assist you during these difficult conversations or complaint resolution meetings with your aged care service.

Advocates are usually employed by advocacy services or peak advocacy organisations. These organisations often receive Government funding to operate independently and in most cases, their services are free of charge. 

Anytime you are feeling pressure to make a decision about something, not satisfied with care or decisions made about you, that is when you should approach an advocate.

Otherwise, advocates are a great way to learn about your rights as an older person and what sort of care, and quality of care, you should be receiving.

The great thing about advocates is that they are impartial, so they will never be on the side of the provider or biased towards any situation you are in personally.

Who can be an advocate?

Every State and Territory has free and independent advocacy services that provide free telephone advice, community education sessions or in-person advocacy assistance.

The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) is the national network of advocacy organisations covering all States and Territories in Australia. A free advice and advocacy line, 1800 700 600, can link you directly with an aged care advocate in your State and Territory.

OPAN also delivers the Australian Government's National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP), which provides free advice to older people, ensuring accurate and confidential information.

Family and friends provide a lot of advocacy support to older people who are in an aged care home or receiving aged care services at home and aren't able to advocate for themselves.

These people are considered informal advocates that can support you and talk to providers about your personal interests on your behalf.

Additionally, there is an option for you to nominate an Enduring Power of Attorney, also known as a legal advocate, who will be legally able to support you with complaints and advocate on your behalf. This position can be held by anyone you know or trust.

Limitations and roles of an advocate

It is important to remember that while advocates can provide advice to you around complaint matters and can make sure your voice is being heard during meetings with providers, they are not lawyers. So they will not be able to provide legal advice or attend to any legal matters on your behalf.

Guidance, education and information are important parts of advocacy. An advocate wants to empower you through knowledge by making sure you know your rights as an older person, and help you navigate complaints and resolutions with your aged care provider.

This education can come through teaching you about your rights and responsibilities, and explaining how the Charter of Aged Care Rights work.

They can sit down with you and assist in writing emails or letters to your provider around any concerns you have about the care you are receiving.

An advocate can attend any meetings, hearings or appointments you have with your provider to make sure your views are heard and represented appropriately during these meetings. Also, advocates can make sure that the provider is being respectful and meeting their Aged Care Standard requirements.

If you are scared to attend a meeting without having support, advocates can provide emotional or moral support as well.

Additionally, an advocate will sit down with you to find out the end result you want to achieve and help negotiate or mediate any disputes.

An advocate will never make decisions or take actions without asking for your permission first, which is why it's important to let your advocate know what you're hoping to achieve during your initial meetings.

If you are moving from one aged care service to another, an advocate can assist with your transition over to the new facility or service.

Eligibility for accessing advocacy services

To be eligible for advocacy assistance through Government-supported services, you either need to be currently living in a Government funded nursing home, receiving home care services in your own home through one of the Government funded programs - such as the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or a Home Care Package (HCP), receiving transition care, or you are a family member or friend that is helping someone who is currently receiving an aged care service.

Advocacy is free for anyone that is currently receiving Commonwealth funded aged care service or will potentially receive aged care services. And if you are not receiving Government funded services, aged care advocates, like the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), will still provide assistance.

How has an advocate made your experience receiving aged care services easier? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

The role of advocacy in aged care
What about complaints?
What is elder abuse?

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