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More needs to be done to help those seeking aged care information

Recognising the need for more awareness about how to access aged care services and what is available, the Government recently launched a national awareness campaign promoting the My Aged Care website and national 1800 phone number.

Consumer advocacy groups believe more needs to be done to help those seeking the information (Source: Shutterstock)
Consumer advocacy groups believe more needs to be done to help those seeking the information (Source: Shutterstock)

The campaign also provides examples of aged care support that people depending on their care needs maybe eligible to receive including a range of services in their own home.

However, while advocacy organisations across Australia welcome the campaign, they believe more needs to be done to help those seeking the information. 

The Government advertising campaign will run in newspapers, magazines, radio, digital and social media, but Greg Mahney, Advocare Chief Executive feels the government should also look at other ways of how to get the information out there. “Educating workers to better convey the information, use TV programmes or radio commentary – these are media which older people can relate to,” he says.

The groups have also raised concerns about access to the information. Difficulties in navigating the My Aged Care website, language barriers for those wanting to use the phone service and the bureaucratic language used on the website are just some areas advocate organisations feel need improving.

Greg Mahney, Advocare Chief Executive Officer says the My Aged Care website is slowly making it and believes it will end up being a good resource, but thinks there needs to be other ways to access the information.

“People who’ve got issues with eyesight, haven’t got the internet at home and have limited mobility get to access to the internet can’t readily get the information,” he says. He highlights other health issues, such as shaking, make it hard for people to use touch screens and many find it hard to navigate the website.

Geoff Rowe Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia) feels the language on the website isn’t friendly, and should be in plain English. He also highlights some people find talking to customer services on the phone hard, and in some cultures, the concept of aged care can be difficult. 

There are other barriers to accessing the information too. Mr Rowe points out restrictions include if English isn’t your first language, you’re not IT savvy or if you live in a rural area where internet access is poor. 

"People are accessing it at a time of crisis and most don't have a plan," he highlights. “We have a recurring theme of ‘I didn’t know that exists’. People know of district nurses and Meals on Wheels,” he says. 

Mr Rowe says he is optimistic. “The system is just 18 months old; I have feeling the Government is listening and can improve access.”

While Russell Westacott, Seniors Rights Service supports the campaign, and feels the more mediums used to convey the messages the better, he also feels the system must be adequately resourced. “The phone needs to be picked up immediately and My Aged Care needs to be promoted in a more meaningful way,” he says. He also feels the role of advocacy should be more prominent. “We can advocate on people’s behalf - if people aren’t happy, they should be told they can come to us,” he says.

Plus he points out it isn’t clear what people should do if they think they’ve unfairly been told they’re not eligible for Government funded aged care. “Where do they take that complaint,” he asks. “They can’t complain to us as they aren’t under aged care services. I believe they can take it to a tribunal, but this isn’t obvious.”

ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service CEO Fiona May also feels more should be done to highlight the role of advocacy. “It’s rare for someone to seek the support of advocacy and then go off and independently find the information,” she says. “This is where we our advocates are involved.”

She points out for some, the need to use aged services comes on quickly. “It may be a health issue or they end up in hospital, and it’s at that point they need to access aged care services,” she says. “There is a critical incident going on and they are often not functioning at the same competency and need greater assistance.”

“Phone staff needs to recognise this in their communications; having the skill to work with people who have an extra level of anxiety is very important,” she says. “They need to recognise when someone has phoned the service, but doesn’t understand the information they’re been given. That’s when they should refer advocacy support for help with the system; it’s incredibly complicated and there are so many steps.”

Promoting advocacy services she believes should be channelled into Government communications. “Advocacy services would welcome that message in the campaign,” she says. 

As well as the Government website, there are also independent information resources for those seeking more information about aged care services, such as the printed DPS Guide to Aged Care and the linked AgedCareGuide.com.au website. Many of these also give a comprehensive overview of all care options and care providers available, and offer more general helpful information on topics such as finance, health and more specialised care and where to find help.

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