Jun 03, 2024

How aged care advocacy can help you navigate aged care

aged care advocacy ADA Australia
Advocates are available to help you understand and navigate the aged care system. [Shutterstock]

The aged care experience is often a highly emotional one for those who are either at the centre of it or helping a loved one navigate the system.

More often than not, it’s rare to have the opportunity to plan out your aged care experience. One fall can lead to a person being admitted to the hospital and never returning home. Instead, decisions are made about moving the person into residential aged care.

And when decisions must be made quickly it’s hard to know what the right one is. This is especially true when the aged care system is involved; it’s a complex system full of assessments, fees, documents and more. Absorbing all of this information isn’t easy when you just want to ensure you or a loved one is being cared for. 

With over one million Australians accessing aged care services, it might even be you who’s currently navigating the aged care system, whether you’re living at home or in residential care.

Although every experience is different, the people moving into aged care have one thing in common: their rights and needs are the top priority. 

But it can be difficult to prioritise those needs and rights when we’re simply trying to understand the aged care system or we’re reluctant to speak up about poor services – or worse.

So what can you do if you feel like aged care services are not focused on the rights and needs of you or a loved one? You can seek out the support of an aged care advocate.

What is aged care advocacy?

Aged care advocates are here to work alongside you while navigating aged care or resolving any issues that impact your rights. Advocates will seek to ensure your needs and preferences are met, whether you’re living in residential care, receiving home care support, or accessing any other service such as respite care. 

Geoff Rowe is the CEO of Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia), a not-for-profit, independent, community-based advocacy and education service supporting older people in Queensland. They are a member of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN). 

Mr Rowe told Hello Care that it’s important for everyone to know that they can call on an aged care advocate for support.

“The current Charter of Aged Care Rights sets out what quality aged care looks like, and what older people can expect from their aged care service. It’s OK to speak up, ask for what you need or to make a complaint, and advocates are here to help you do that,” Mr Rowe said.

“We understand that the aged care system can be complex and confusing, and we can help navigate the system and find solutions. It’s what we do, and chances are an advocate has dealt with the issue before.”

“Too often we see older people becoming passengers in their lives, where their wishes and opinions are overlooked. Support from an advocate is a free service that can help you change that.”

How an advocate can help you

Heidri Brook
Heidri Brook, a financial advocate at ADA Australia, is one of many experienced advocates ready to help. [Supplied]

If you or a loved one are currently using aged care services – or intend to – aged care advocacy can help out in a variety of ways.

Understanding Your Rights: Advocates will help you learn about your rights when accessing the aged care system. They explain the services you should receive and the standards of care you should expect under all relevant legislation such as the Aged Care Act or Quality Standards.

Expressing Your Preferences: If you have specific needs or preferences about your care, an advocate can help you communicate these to your service providers. This ensures your voice is heard and your choices are respected, especially when you feel like no one is listening.

Resolving Issues: If you encounter problems or feel your needs are not being met, advocates can assist you in addressing these issues. They can help you file complaints, mediate discussions with care providers, and find solutions. This support is available no matter the severity of the issue.

Support in Decision-Making: Advocates can guide you through complex decisions about your care options. They provide information and support to help you make informed choices that best suit your situation. 

Protecting Your Interests: Person-centred care should be the focal point of modern aged care. Advocacy ensures that your best interests are always prioritised as they work independently from care providers, so their primary focus is on your well-being and satisfaction.

Calling on an aged care advocate means you have a dedicated ally to help navigate the aged care system, ensure care meets personal expectations, and address any concerns. This support can be life-changing, especially at a time when someone has earned the right to be respected and treated properly. 

Aged care advocacy services are always independent, free of charge and available across Australia. Call 1800 700 600 to talk to ADA Australia or an advocate in your area. You can find more information about ADA Australia at adaaustralia.com.au.

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