Home care help for our elderly coming too late: Susan Templeman MP

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman with Noeleen O'Beirne.
Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman with Noeleen O'Beirne.

Aged residents in the Blue Mountains are among more than 100,000 people waiting up to a year for government support that allows them to stay in their home.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman recently raised the issue in Parliament, saying she has been told that in some cases by the time home care packages are delivered, the person has had to move into aged care or has died.

“There is urgency to this situation, just as there should be urgency when someone is assessed as being eligible for in-home support,” Ms Templeman said.

“They don't have all the time in the world, and we have a responsibility to ensure that people whose lives have often shrunk to revolve around their home get the care they need because, right now, they're dying before the care they deserve even arrives.”

The latest figures for the three months to September, show the waiting list grew by more than 10,000. Of the 100,000 people now waiting, 78,000 are waiting to access a higher level of care than the one they currently receive.

The federal government recently announced it was converting 6000 low level packages to high level care.

But Ms Templeman said there needed to be a much larger investment by the Turnbull Government.

“Hazelbrook resident, Noeleen O'Beirne’s husband was one of the people waiting for an appropriate level of in home care. Patrick died last year at the age of 90. He had been assessed more than 12 months earlier as needing in-home care. He was very frail and Noeleen's own health wasn't up to the up to the heavy work involved in assisting him and, of course, while the rest of the family did what they could, support was sorely needed. Patrick was assessed as needing level 4 care, which is the top level of care.

“He may have been eligible to receive assistance with showering, dressing, home cleaning, help to use aids and appliances, some social support, meal preparation, medication management, nursing care, allied health support like physio, help with shopping, transport to get to appointments, and support with any changes to memory or behaviour," she said. “Sadly, Patrick’s home care package only started to be delivered shortly before Patrick died.”

But aged care minister Ken Wyatt turned the attack back on Labor, saying it had left the government with an “home care debacle” which saw some people die before receiving care.

“To suggest that the Turnbull Government is not making home-based aged care a top priority is nonsense,” he said, citing the upgrade of 6000 low level packages to high grade.

“While these additional packages will assist thousands of people, we are committed to continuing reform as we rectify the home care debacle left by Labor.”

Mr Wyatt said the government’s Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms are “bedding down and further empowering consumers, with the current roll-out of up to 2500 home care packages a week, and a $20 million revamp of the MyAgedCare information and allocation system.

“This includes two major initiatives: Home care packages and a $5.5 billion commitment to the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

“The CHSP provides entry level aged care services for people who need assistance with household chores, preparing meals, extra transport services, personal care and home maintenance.

“Our 2017 aged care reforms and commitment to transparency have exposed the extent of the home care mess left by Labor.

“Previously, home care waiting lists were administered by aged care providers but the  Turnbull Government’s new national queue system has brought much-needed visibility and accountability,” he said.

“With details published quarterly, the true extent of home care demand is now being revealed.

“What has also been revealed is that when Labor set the original Living Longer Living Better ratios for home care packages, they didn’t do their homework.

“The Turnbull Government inherited home care system settings and supply ratios that were woefully inadequate, just as Labor failed to fully fund the NDIS.

“Under the old system, many of the people waiting for home care packages were really in limbo and some of them died waiting.

“Now, we know the true numbers and we are working hard to extend senior Australians’ home care options and services.”