If you’ve been caring for a loved one or parent who struggles to complete some of the most basic of tasks such as cleaning, cooking or even caring for themselves, you’ll know how difficult it can be to find them care that allows them to live with both dignity and independence. Putting them into a home isn’t always the answer – especially if they’ve still got plenty of independence in other aspects of their life.
Home care is great way to achieve this and simply offers a range of services that make life easier for both the person in poor health and their families. This includes everything from assistance with domestic duties and personal care to nursing services and even transportation – basically anything that helps someone live as independently as possible at home. Having said that, it can be a complex decision to make and finding the right care provider isn’t as simple as going with the first company that comes your way.
Kim Inglis, customer engagement consultant for Brotherhood Aged Care, says there are a variety of factors to consider and questions to ask when researching care providers. One of the main things she warns about is hidden costs. These may be set-up fees, exit fees or even costs associated with a provider outsourcing to other agencies if they can’t provide relevant care your loved one needs.
“What we’re finding is there’s some very good sales people out in the industry at the moment,” she says. “Be mindful of any hidden cost that might not be disclosed at the time they’re going through the comparing. Be mindful to ask questions about any additional costs that could be incurred and also the calibre of the staff. I can’t stress that enough.”
A good way around this is to do comparisons and to get a full understanding of what is on offer and the care your loved one will receive. Many sales people won’t be direct when it comes to vital aspects of care including a case manager – something Kim says shouldn’t be compromised.
“With Brotherhood, when we say that we appoint a case manager, that case manager will be with the family for the journey,” she notes. “That can be during work time, or we have an after-hours number and a duty worker to look after you when your case manager is not available. So it’s very important to look for that.”
It’s something echoed by Andrea Drew, whose own mum and dad receive care through Brotherhood. Because she lives some distance away from her parents, it’s important for both Andrea and her parents to know help is available when they need it.
“I deal directly through one case manager there, Maria, who’s taken my parents under her wing,” says Andrea. “If she’s not available, there’s always others I can speak to and I get the same help.”
Finding a reputable agency or someone who understands the aged care process and system is also vital when finding a provider, while being aware of staff qualifications and skills can often be a good sign of how sincere they are when it comes to a loved one’s care. For example, all Brotherhood direct care staff have a minimum of Certificate III in Aged Care and up-to-date police checks, as well as working-with-children checks. Case Managers are also either allied health professionals or social workers, so they are knowledgeable when it comes to providing relevant care.
“Experience and expertise are very important for families to be looking for when they’re choosing a service provider,” Kim notes.
In addition, Brotherhood has also provided Andrea’s parents with assistance for tasks they can no longer complete. This has meant they can still live comfortably at home, without being forced into a facility.
“We looked at getting the gardens maintained and the lawns mowed and over time, it’s just become general maintenance for the house, with my mum being on a package now and unable to do the cleaning,” Andrea explains. “My dad has showering five days a week by personal carers and we often get the odd personal carer come out to drive them to appointments if my sister and I can’t do it. It’s just been amazing. The help has been fantastic.”
With more than 500 services available in Australia, Kim warns that it’s not uncommon for privatised or for-profit providers to cut services and that profits can sometimes benefit staff, rather than customers. These providers may also charge a basic daily fee – another factor worth checking out when researching a care provider. In contrast, not-for-profit providers such as Brotherhood put profits back into research or to improving the service provided, while basic daily fees aren’t charged.
If a customer or their family isn’t happy with the service they’re receiving or their health needs change, it is possible to change providers while maintaining My Aged Care funding. Everyone needs to be under the support of a service provider to receive the funding and it’s important to follow the rules when it comes to this.
“They would need to inform My Aged Care they want to change service providers, and the service provider they’ve chosen to change to would encourage them to contact their current agency and arrange an exit date and try and have it streamlined so the person doesn’t get disadvantaged with services,” Kim says. “What they need to do is have a look at other service providers that they feel may best support their needs.”
And while it’s common for families to be riddled with fear when it comes to handing over control to care providers, it’s not something to worry about if you find the right fit for your loved one and their situation.
“No one wants to wave that white flag and say, ‘I’m at that age or stage now where I can’t do this anymore’ and it is concerning when you’ve got an elderly parent saying they’re okay and can manage it,” Andrea says. “The concern is you don’t want to take away all their control, pride and dignity, but you want to handle it carefully.
“Brotherhood have been absolutely phenomenal in every aspect. We’ve never had a ‘no’, we’ve never been rejected. They offer so much, it’s unbelievable. I just tell everyone you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
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