Finding the right aged care support for you or someone you care for can be difficult. It may be an emotional time for you and your family as it’s sometimes hard to know what the best care option is and the system itself can be tricky to navigate.
Then, sometimes, it can feel like the right care option just doesn’t exist.
Advocare’s keenly aware there are several areas where more needs to be done to address the access issues that affect thousands of older Australians. Perhaps you, or someone you know, has experienced one of these?
Wait times are far too long
Best-case scenario, there is built-in lag time of at least one to three months between being approved for a home care package and that care commencing. In reality, My Aged Care (the Australian Government’s central website for aged care information) says the wait time can be more than 12 months, depending on the availability of providers in your area.
This wait time can be a huge problem for older people who want to continue living independently or are ready for residential care. It can also be difficult for family members who often have to fill the care gap themselves, even if they’re not well-placed to do so. There’s no guarantee, after all, that family members are fit or healthy, or live nearby.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have specific needs
More than a third of West Australians were born overseas. Almost half of all Australians have at least one parent who was born overseas , with many of our compatriots born in countries including Britain, India, China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
So, of the 29 per cent of Australians who are aged 55 or older,  many will come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These people should have access to excellent aged care, just like everyone else. But meeting those care needs can sometimes present particular challenges for families and care providers. For example:
- If your older person does not speak English, you may want to find a provider with carers (or fellow residents) who share a language with your loved one
- Your older person may prefer carers (or fellow residents) with whom they share cultural experiences and values
- For cultural, religious or personal reasons your older person may require their carers to be of the same gender as themselves.
The good news is that while finding appropriate aged care is tricky, it’s not necessarily impossible. For example, at Chung Wah Community Care 95 per cent of clients don’t speak English, but 98 per cent of their carers are bilingual. 
Discrimination and marginalisation of LGBTQI+ people
Older Australians of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity also have the right to access aged care services that are responsive to their needs without fear of discrimination or marginalisation.
Unfortunately, in many mainstream aged care homes, acceptance, understanding and arrangements that suit people from the LGBTQI+ community are still lagging and more geared towards a heteronormative care experience.
In 2021, the CEO of LGBTQI+ charity Switchboard, Joe Ball, told the ABC: “If you’re LGBT and you live in aged care, you’re far more likely to be socially isolated. If you’re 65-plus, you’re far, far less likely to have children than generations that follow. 
“Aged care should not be something that we are terrified of, and most of us are,” they said.
Clearly there is still work to be done.
A lack of services provision in remote and regional WA
Difficulty accessing aged care is, regrettably, common across regional and remote areas of Australia, leaving some older people with no choice but to leave the communities they have lived in for years and move to more urban locations.
In a recent interview, Professor Irene Blackberry from the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing and Aged Care Research told the ABC she estimated Australia needed another 3,500 aged care beds and 2,500 home care support packages over the next 10 years to support people in remote areas. 
Small communities often don’t have the facilities, the workforce or the funding to support aged care in their region. While Professor Blackberry said sometimes communities can play a role in supporting older people, the Federal Government told the ABC it was “working with the sector to address workforce shortages”.
The system is complex and difficult to navigate
Finally, as previously mentioned, the Australian aged care system itself can be difficult to navigate. Increasingly, you need to be digitally savvy to access information. This can be difficult for those who don’t have access to the internet, aren’t familiar with digital technology or are socially isolated.
The system is also overly complex, even if you are digitally savvy and have access to all the information. Advocare regularly receives queries from very competent, connected adults who are struggling to help get their parents set up in aged care services.
As an independent, community-based organisation and the peak body in aged care advocacy in WA, Advocare provides care-finding services under the Australian Government’s care finder program network.
Our navigation service supports older Australians to understand, access and connect with other relevant aged care services in the community. Find out more here or read below.
1. MyAgedCare website, accessed 8 March 2023. https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/node/1629280
2. ABS website. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/australias-population-country-birth/latest-release#-country-of-birth-age-and-sex
3. ABS website. https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/2021-census-nearly-half-australians-have-parent-born-overseas
4. ABS website. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/australias-population-country-birth/latest-release
5. ABS website. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/snapshot-australia/latest-release#age-and-sex
6. Fortis Consulting website. https://fortisconsulting.com.au/power-of-heart-and-people-in-cald-aged-care-interview-with-theresa-kwok/
7. MyAgedCare website. https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/support-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-and-intersex-people
8. ABC News, After years of discrimination, many LGBTQ people are ‘terrified’ of going into aged care. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-18/lgbtqia-aged-care-experience/13226122
9. ABC News, Lack of rural aged care forcing elderly to move away from communities. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-06/lack-rural-aged-care-elderly-moving-away-from-communities/101923364
Other Advocare Newsbites articles:
What’s happening at Advocare? – Making tracks with the Regional Outreach Team
Health, safety and wellness for April 23 – Finance bootcamp, wellbeing quiz & get stronger with COTA’s program