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The best way to avoid premature entry into residential aged care, says ADA Australia advocate Nicky Adjei, is to plan ahead.
‘My key piece of advice to older people is: “be prepared”. That includes knowing your rights – and your options.’
One in three people enter residential care from hospital, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Falls and urinary tract infections are two of the most common causes of unexpected admissions.
Until that point, many older people have been living independently at home.
But if they are unable to access the paid or informal support they need to recover, they can feel pressured and powerless.
‘Historically, hospitals have been a pathway to residential aged care,’ says Adjei.
‘But we know older people want to remain at home and there are alternatives – such as short-term restorative care, transition care and even respite care.
‘Older people who are already receiving a home care package can also be reassessed for increased levels of support.’
To ensure their voice is heard, Adjei says older people should sign up for aged care services as, and when, they need them rather than waiting until things get to a point where they can’t cope.
‘People can be resistant to accessing support, but if you already have services in place, it’s easier to access additional support if there is a crisis.
‘And if you are building experience withing the system, you are in a much better position to say: “hold on, this is moving a bit fast for me, there are other options we can consider”.
‘Of yours, if an older person is in hospital, they might not be their best self, but if they have engaged with My Aged Care or an advocate before, they know where to go for help.
‘That’s going to be the most protective factor in ensuring they are not pressured or sent down a particular pathway.’
For more information about your aged care options when leaving hospital – and a handy checklist – check out our Self-advocacy toolkit.
Click to order a print version of the toolkit.