What do we think of when we talk about advocacy? Perhaps we envision impassioned activists rallying for change, or a single person acting as backup when we need it.
In reality, the landscape of advocacy is much more multifaceted than meets the eye. In aged care, it encompasses different approaches to protect the rights and wishes of an older person, with the ability to flexibly shift with changing circumstances.
Let’s explore three primary forms of advocacy we practice at Advocare.
Self-advocacy empowers older people with the knowledge and information to feel confident expressing their own concerns regarding their aged care rights and well-being, continuing the process independently until the issue is resolved.
Example: Ms Anderson loves gardening however her many requests to garden independently at her aged care home are repeatedly denied by the administration who state safety concerns like falling or getting dehydrated.
Ms Anderson calls Advocare who listen to her frustration and inform her of her aged care rights regarding autonomy and decision-making at an aged care home. Ms Anderson wishes to continue handling the situation herself and is now armed with the information and certainty to re-initiate the conversation with the facility. Through negotiation, she secures specific times for unsupervised gardening with safety measures in place.
2. Assisted Advocacy
Assisted advocacy involves helping another person, such as an older person’s legally appointed representative, to speak on behalf of the older person.
Example: Maria, Mr Garcia’s daughter and legally appointed guardian, has noticed her father becoming thinner and more lethargic when visiting his aged care home. During one lunchtime visit, she notes the food he’s served is very unappealing and appears to be a microwavable meal with little nutrition and flavour. It’s no wonder he barely touches his food!
Maria tries speaking to staff but is met with empty responses. She calls Advocare for support and is reassured Mr Garcia has the right to nutritious meals as part of his care. The Advocate encourages Maria to first address the problem directly by contacting the facility’s service officer and providing feedback. If this proves unproductive, the Advocate also explains the role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) for ensuring his well-being and directs her to their Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline (1800 844 044) where she can voice her concerns, speak to dedicated dietitians, get relevant information, and be supported to hold the facility accountable by raising a formal complaint with the Commission.
Representation is when the Advocate speaks on behalf of the older person. This usually occurs after other approaches have been unsuccessful and the issue continues to be unresolved.
Example: Since her stay in hospital, Ms Kemarre has been receiving aged care services for personal care. Despite her improved health and the safety installations in her shower, her assessment with the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) indicated she wasn’t independent with bathing and required a support worker to aid her. She feels disempowered and misses her privacy.
Ms Kemarre calls Advocare to express how upset she is, stating her discomfort showering in front of a stranger. As she would rather not self-advocate, she gives direct consent to the Advocate to contact her service provider directly to discuss safe options that would allow her to bathe alone.
After some negotiation, another assessment and additional provision of safety equipment, it’s found Ms Kemarre is safely able to shower independently and instead she is offered a stand-by shower service where the support worker waits outside the bathroom in case assistance is required.
Each type of advocacy has a unique role in ensuring the rights and well-being of older people are upheld in aged care, however it’s important to remember the flexibility that exists between them. At any time, the older person or those appointed to look after their care, can choose to move between self-advocacy, assisted advocacy, and representation to suit their current needs and situations. They have final say in all decision-making, and direct consent will always be obtained by an Advocate before acting on their behalf. This flexibility empowers older people to navigate the aged care system with confidence, knowing they have the support they need to protect their rights.
If you have any questions about advocacy or would like support with your aged care rights, please call us at 1800 655 566.
Elder Abuse Helpline – call 1300 724 679
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission – https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/
Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline – https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/consumers/food-nutrition-and-dining
Older Persons Advocacy Network – https://opan.org.au/
Council on Ageing Australia – https://cota.org.au/
MyAgedCare – https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/