In January, Advocare launched the care finder program in the Perth, Wheatbelt and South West regions. Two of the eight members of the metro team took some time out to explain their role in changing the lives of vulnerable older people.
The care finder team is regularly out in the community so we don’t tend to see many of them about in the office for long, but it’s all for a good cause.
The drive of this new program is to support vulnerable older people ‘who may have fallen through the support cracks of the aged care and health systems.’ Both Adam and Kim joined the program in May 2023. They’re very passionate about their work – yet humble and incredibly respectful of the clients they work with. Both Kim and Adam agree that there’s no such thing as a ‘usual day’ for a care finder.
Adam says “There’s a lot of time spent out in the community visiting clients. We find face-to-face visits are usually the best way to support a client. We’re often helping people get connected to aged care and other community services, so there’ll be a lot of assisting clients with paperwork and forms and, organising assessments and helping clients navigate the aged care system.”
No two days are the same for our care finder team, they need to remain flexible, as many clients have complex needs and challenges requiring more intensive support at different times.
So, what does it take to be a care finder… what are the key skills?
Adam, who’s worked previously as a lawyer and in the aged care system as a domestic assistant and care worker, identified having patience and the capacity to listen and to understand what’s going on for the client is a key part of the role.
“I think being able to listen and communicate is probably the biggest skill. This is because we work with vulnerable and isolated individuals and there can be a lot of mistrust of the health system and the government, so we’ll spend enough time as we need to build rapport so they feel comfortable being supported by us.”
Kim, who’s worked in health and community care for more than 25 years also saw patience as an important quality. She described how many older people they see are living in a world of confusion. Often the information the care finder is given is confused from the get-go, as the client often doesn’t understand it themselves. The first step is to unravel the story to get to the core of the matter.
The other quality both care finders strongly agree on is being non-judgemental in the role. Kim shared what this looks like, “A referrer once described a client to us as living in ‘squalor’, just because there was a build-up of rubbish in a corner or there was untidiness in the backyard – but the client didn’t see it like that. Not everybody lives the same way, so we’ve really got to be able to breathe, step back and just not judge where people are going in their life.”
Kim mentioned the privilege of being allowed into someone’s life, and into that private sanctuary the client calls ‘home’. “Another important quality is to be curious, if you can’t follow a person’s path down the rabbit hole, you’re never going to figure out what’s going on for them.”
“I’m just fascinated by people’s lives… and I’m so interested in the contributions they’ve made to the world. Over my time working in the community services and health sectors I have supported Russian ballerinas, airline pilots, farmers, and a lady who had danced at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. And if you just go in there to do the job, I think you’re not really doing the job.”
How to be caring and say farewell
The care finder program is to assist the client to get connected to aged care services and to empower the client to make decisions about their care. Closing a case with a client after spending so much time building rapport and hearing about the person’s life as part of this connection process can be tricky at times, but it’s a necessary part of the case cycle.
Currently, Adam’s working with 16 clients, and he’ll assist them with all the necessary steps to get connected with services. Once a client is connected, then the care finder needs to step away.
On this subject, Kim told us “You build a relationship and it can be a bit sad to see them go, but it’s good to be able to wrap things up because there’s such a huge need for care finder services now. I know when I wrap a case up it’s creating a bit of capacity for someone else to begin their journey towards a better life.”
Kim adds, “It can be difficult, because once they’ve bonded, they’ve bonded, which means setting your professional boundaries upfront is really important.”
This is when the Care Finder service intersects with other community-based programs and services to ensure the person remains supported even though the Care Finder’s work has finished. Advocare’s Aged Care Volunteer Visitor Scheme (ACCVS) is one of these options, where a suitable, registered volunteer who lives nearby can be that other form of ongoing companionship support. This makes the closing-off process more manageable for all parties involved knowing the client is in a better spot than the care finder found them and has been connected back into their community.
A big thanks to Adam and Kim for sharing their insights into the daily work of our newest service, one that has seen Advocare’s total team since January 2023 grow by 34%.
Advocare’s free care finder service receives referrals from hospital social workers, general practitioners, allied health professionals and other organisations that encounter older people. Our service welcomes working with the older person who is open to receiving support to change their life situation – for the better.