How many times have you heard phrases like these? “It’s your responsibility”. “The person is an aged care client so you should be doing it”.

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‘It’ being a multitude of supports that supposedly you, as the aged care coordinator, should be arranging for the individual according to their family or someone else in the community.

‘It’ might be:

  • Managing the old person’s finances
  • Arranging for them to get to an appointment in town
  • Ensuring they get their medications
  • Making sure they have water throughout the day
  • Ensuring they get food over the weekend

While some of these supports can be genuine needs, is it the responsibility of the aged care program to take on the delivery of these? Where does the family responsibility come into play? What about the other stakeholders in the community?

One grievance I hear over and over again from aged care staff on remote communities is that family and other people in the community believe that when a person transitions onto the aged care program, all responsibility is handed over to the aged care staff. I have also noted some well-meaning coordinators accepting this responsibility, creating dependencies upon the aged care service.

Is this right?

Under a Consumer Directed Care model, we seek to connect an individual not only with direct aged care services but also with the wider community. In a way, we are returning to an older model where elders held value and engendered respect due to their years of life experience and their continued contribution to the family and/or community.

We need to accept that formal aged care support is just one of a number of services and supports that enable an older person to remain living at home and able to contribute to their community. In community-based aged care, the aim is to see people living independently – whether that be with their family or on their own. It’s not about becoming dependent on the aged care service and disrupting the family structure.

We believe that the most important people to support an older person living at home are the person’s family members and close friends.

On remote communities, these people may be living with the older person or close by and form the first tier of support for the person. These are the people who speak the language of the individual and have insight into the cultural needs and obligations that the person has.

It has become the norm for aged care services to step into the perceived breach left by family or friends who appear to have abandoned the care of their relative; but have they? Sometimes it is merely that we, as outsiders, don’t recognise cultural norms. Sometimes we, as the professional, believe we know best. When we step in and ‘rescue’ the person, their family see that they don’t have to make any effort to care for their relative – the aged care service will do that.

Responsibility should be shared.

What if, instead of taking over, the aged care staff spent time educating the family on their responsibilities, holding family conferences and training them on how to care for their family member?

What if the aged care staff spent time networking with other service providers, such as Allied Health professionals, Carer Respite or the Housing Department, being a conduit for others to support the client and their family carers and getting to know who to refer the client to?

What if the aged care coordinator or manager spent time developing clear Memorandums of Understanding or Shared Work Agreements with other providers to ensure everyone is clear of their responsibilities?

By strengthening the wider support network of the individual, there is less chance of the person ending up in crisis. No, aged care can’t do everything, but aged care services can help an individual develop their personal support network, linking them with those who can help them in a multitude of ways, physically, socially and emotionally.

And what about all those people who believe that it is your responsibility?

Educate them. If you would like a PDF copy of our poster ‘Aged Care Support Networks’ just enter your details below and we’ll send it to your email address for you to download.

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Carrie

Carrie is a passionate advocate for the provision of quality, community based, aged care.
In her spare time, while she ages gracefully, she helps out with kids theatre, rides an electric bike and drags her husband off to explore the world as often as possible.

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