Five members of our National Older Persons Reference Group shared their vision for the future at OPAN’s recent Election Roundtable.
When we asked Lynda Henderson, Mona Orszulak, Charles Linsell, Robin Vote and Lesley Foster what commitments they wanted from the incoming government, several key themes emerged:
Better pay and conditions for aged care workers
‘[Aged care workers] are overworked and underpaid,’ says Mona Orszulak, who has worked in aged care herself and has ‘experienced first-hand the lack of esteem and recognition for aged care workers’.
‘This undervalues the importance of my needs being met.’
After identifying the disparity between her support worker’s take home pay and the fees charged by her service provider, Ms Orszulak decided to self-manage her own home care package.
‘I expect our politicians to sort out this failed aged care system now, before it’s too late. Not just for us, but for you and future generations because we were you once and you will be us soon.’
Put older people at the centre of aged care reform
‘I’m very concerned too many people are deciding what we want without proper consultation … and without an understanding of our needs,’ says Lesley Forster.
‘If I were a politician, I would take the wisdom and experience of older people and put them at the front of reform.’
‘Everyone seems to think they know better than [older people] about what we need, how we feel and how we wish to live our lives,’ Ms Orszulak agreed.
Provide adequate respite care
‘As somebody who has been a care partner to someone for almost a decade, I would do something immediately about the long waitlists of people in hospital (in our region it’s already more than 100 people) waiting for a place to live next,’ says Lynda Henderson.
‘Now that’s appalling. As for people like me, being able to sustain a long-term effort that gets increasingly difficult … in many cases, without regular respite, we just can’t do it.’
A new Aged Care Act
“I want to see an Aged Care Act that is not based on private profit but … on human rights and particularly the rights of older people,” says Ms Henderson.
‘How would you like to be told how often you can get a shower, at what time, and who will assist you if you need help. Or have a stranger ask very private and personal questions and observe how you use the toilet to assess whether you are worth your support at home,’ added Ms Orszulak.
Fix the NDIS
‘I would love to see the NDIS improved so that people over 65 who have disabilities are included,’ says Ms Forster.
‘It seems so incredibly wrong to cut out a whole group of people. Especially those of us who have had a disability all our life.’
‘I would also oppose the current blatant discriminatory practice of denying older people with disability access to the NDIS – as if disability would just miraculously disappear at age 65,’ says Ms Orszulak.
Reference group member Robyn Vote reminds politicians that older people have an eye on the bigger picture, too.
‘Don’t assume for a moment that older people are only concerned about themselves and about aged care,’ she says, listing climate change and the national economy as key election issues.
‘We don’t want to leave a legacy that will ruin the lives of our grandchildren and our community.’
An incoming government that puts the rights, preferences and needs of older people at the core of the aged care system will rebalance the power dynamic between older people and aged care providers.