Calls for action as elderly Aussies die while languishing on home care wait list

National Seniors Australia has called on the government to make changes as thousands of elderly residents die while waiting on home care packages. Source: Getty

The aged care sector in Australia is firmly under the spotlight at the moment as the royal commission into quality and safety within the industry continues, and now a leading advocacy group has called on the Coalition to do more to support the elderly as thousands of Australians are dying while they wait for their home care packages to be approved.

National Seniors Australia’s Chief Advocate Ian Henschke called for action during the National Elder Abuse Conference, which is taking place in Brisbane this week, claiming there is a “disrespectful lack of urgency” by those in power to create change and ensure vulnerable Australians are well looked after.

Highlighting the figures released by the Aged Care Royal Commission earlier this year, Henschke said the fact 16,000 older Aussies died on the waiting list last year alone proves that elderly Aussies are being “neglected”.

“Neglect is a form of abuse and what we are seeing here is a form of institutional neglect,” he explained at the conference.

“At the end of 2017 the waiting list figure was 104,000. When the royal commission opened in January this year, it was at 128,000 and described as ‘cruel, unfair, disrespectful and discriminatory’ by Dr Tim McEvoy QC, Counsel Assisting the Commission.

“Six months on and it has blown out by more than another 1,000 older Australians.”

Henschke continued by describing it as a “national emergency” as he questioned what the government are doing to help the old and vulnerable in their last years.

He called on the government to fix the problem that is affecting thousands of Australians as waiting times for the highest level home care packages skyrocket to 22 months.

“The people who are waiting and dying are someone’s loved one,” the chief advocate explained.

“They are in a fragile stage of their life and want to stay put in their own home and the people caring for them also need to help. This neglect and this issue need to be addressed.”

This isn’t the first time the issue has been brought into the spotlight with data revealing earlier this year that Aussies are dealing with delays longer than the 12 months listed in the government’s own figures.

A survey of 23 home care package providers conducted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) found people were waiting longer than what has been outlined by My Aged Care. The data shockingly showed some Australians on interim packages often pass away or enter hospital or residential care before receiving the package that they were assessed as needing.

According to LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney these wait times need to be reduced to no more than three months from the time of assessment to the time an older Aussie receives support in their home. He said the shorter wait times should be phased in and supplemented by prioritising the queue based on an individuals’ financial circumstances.

“This would see older Australians who have the option of using their own funds or home equity to cover the cost of their care needs, whilst those people with limited resources access care as a priority,” Rooney explained.

Do you, or a loved one, rely on home care? Do you think the government needs to do more to reduce wait times for senior Australians?

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