Canberrans approved for home care wait for months without assistance

«I have a lot of depression because my mum cannot sleep because she is going worse. And after her falls, I am doing many things; calling here, calling there, calling the hospital, and I need to see her everyday.»

In March last year, Ms Salguero, who was living at home with her daughter in Rivett, was approved for a level three home care package. It would offer cleaning services, a visit from a staffer who could speak or understand Spanish (Ms Salguero’s only language), transport, and dementia support services.

Ms Guidos spoke to multiple local organisations on her mother’s behalf and was promised two staffers who would fit the bill. Both fell through, and she was told another would become available in February this year.

By then, it was too late — in December, Ms Salguero’s dementia worsened and multiple falls caused fractures in her arm. She’s been in hospital since mid-January and has no choice but to enter a permanent residential aged care facility, which she’s joined more waiting lists for as she needs a high care room.

She’s also waiting on the government to approve her subsidy for residential care, which Ms Guidos was told could take up to six weeks. As of June 30, 2018, 91 per cent of residential aged care beds in the ACT were occupied.

As of September 30, 2018 there were 735 people living in the ACT who were waiting for their approved home care package and had not been offered any assistance, or a lower level home care package, in the interim.

Teresa Salguero, who is in the geriatric unit at Canberra Hospital, now has no choice but to go into a permanent residential aged care facility.

Teresa Salguero, who is in the geriatric unit at Canberra Hospital, now has no choice but to go into a permanent residential aged care facility.Credit:Karleen Minney

«Every day she tells me that she wants to go home. And she misses my food because I cooked for her,» Ms Guidos said.

«I never wanted to put my mother in a nursing home. I thought it would be sad and lonely … but now she is high care and I cannot leave her alone.»

On February 10, Scott Morrison announced $662 million in national aged care funding. As part of the package, the ACT would receive 180 extra home care packages and about a 1.1 per cent share of the $320 million being allocated to increase the residential aged care subsidy.

The aged care subsidy would increase by June 30, a government spokesman said. It is unclear when the extra home care packages will become available.

In 2017-18, 42.3 per cent of older people in the ACT received their home care package services within three months of being approved. The median wait time for those entering residential aged care services was 301 days, although this could have been affected by people wanting a specific room or requiring a certain level of care.

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris had previously said that the long wait times were due to reduced funding by the federal government, but it has grown every year since 2012-13.

“The Productivity Commission has said there needs to be a stop to the buck passing. Elderly Canberrans deserve better,» shadow health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said.

«The ACT government needs to take responsibility and fight for a better deal for our elderly at [the Council of Australian Governments].

“It is incumbent on [the council] and the royal commission into aged care to come up with solutions.”

In 2017-18, government spending on home care packages in the ACT was $83.4 million, which is up from recent years. Government spending on residential aged care in the ACT was $138.7 million in 2017-18.

Lucia Guidos has applied for several residential aged care facilities on her mother Teresa Salguero's (pictured) behalf. She has been told by multiple that they don't have any high care rooms available.

Lucia Guidos has applied for several residential aged care facilities on her mother Teresa Salguero’s (pictured) behalf. She has been told by multiple that they don’t have any high care rooms available.Credit:Karleen Minney

Of the 15 residential aged care organisations The Canberra Times contacted— some of which have multiple or several facilities across the ACT — many said they were wary of a lack of home care packages in the ACT.

The number of residential beds available was also under strain and tended to vary day to day, depending on a whether a resident died or had to be taken to hospital indefinitely.


RSL LifeCare has 18 beds free across its residences in Curtin, Page, and Lyneham, a spokesperson said. Presbyterian Aged Care had three vacancies, and Uniting said it had some vacancies but would not say how many.

IRT could have up to 20 people waiting when a vacancy arises, while Villaggio Sant’ Antonio had 46 applicants waiting for a bed. The government does not keep an overall waiting list on residential aged care facilities, so some applicants may appear on several waiting lists across different facilities.

«We are aware of the shortfall in availability of residential aged care places in the ACT, and indeed across all the regions in which we operate,» a spokesperson for IRT said.

«We don’t keep a formal waiting list for the IRT Kangara Waters Aged Care Centre, instead we aim to prioritise those with the highest needs.»

Home care packages are also given out on a priority basis. Ms Salguero was initially listed as a «medium» priority. The Department of Health said they do not comment on individual cases.

The royal commission into aged care started on January 18 and a final report is expected to be prepared by April 30, 2020. Submissions to the commission are not being made available online due to the large volume.

New aged care quality standards are set to come into effect on July 1 and would ensure information provided to older people is current, accurate and timely.

In 2017-18, there were 88 complaints received about residential aged care facilities in the ACT.

Cassandra Morgan is a reporter at The Canberra Times. She was previously a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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