Son’s call for help: ‘These people could die’
MEMORIES are Rockhampton 88-year-old Hazel Barrie's only company some days but without help from the government they're getting harder to hold on to.
She is one of the 1157 people in the Fitzroy region on the wait list for a home care package, which assists elderly Australians with complex needs live independently at home instead of in an aged care facility.
With 1209 people in the Fitzroy region receiving a home care package and there are almost as many waiting.
Her eldest son, Jim Barrie, has been her main carer since his father died in a car accident in 2009 and when he's not with his mother he worries for her.
"If my mum has a fall, because she's not checked on, it could be some time before she's found," Mr Barrie said.
The widow lives alone in the house she raised her family in - her visitors are mainly her children, concerned about her welfare.
Mr Barrie drives from Yeppoon to pick up his mother at the end of most weeks and takes her back to his house for three days, but he wants the government to help share the responsibility.
"My concern is she has to apply insulin to herself and she has kidney problems and heart problems," he said.
Her son isn't the only person worried for Mrs Barrie's welfare - he said her doctor agreed she needs more assistance.
"If she could just get a visit once a day to make sure she's got that medication and transportation and to make sure she's well," Mr Barrie said.
Mrs Barrie is on a Commonwealth Home Support Programme, which partially funds a cleaner once a fortnight and transportation to the doctors twice a week but she needs more help.
The fact his mother was eligible for help but doesn't receive it was frustrating for Mr Barrie.
"We weren't aware my mum could access more services or more help because there's nothing to tell you," he said.
After a recent bout in hospital Mrs Barrie's only option was to stay with one of her children in Mackay and then another child in Emerald during her recovery.
Mr Barrie felt lost in the system, restricted by red tape and legislation he doesn't understand.
"We just don't know what the government want, they're saying they want people to stay in their own homes but they're making it hard," he said.
"This wait time is not what the government is promoting. Realistically these elderly people could die in their own homes."
While Mrs Barrie's children ensure her welfare, Mr Barrie said it was worrying the care was the responsibility of the family.
"There are families who want to look after their family and keep them in a safe environment where they wish to live," he said.
But without government regulation, other elderly people might not be so lucky.
"It's just the seriousness and the urgency that's required to get some help, there's a lot of people out there suffering with falls and isolation," he said.
Nationally there are at least 72,062 people waiting for a home care package - wait times range from three months to more than a year depending on severity.
CentacareCQ director Robert Sims said too many people were going without the proper care.
"We have a significant number of clients waiting for their package or to get a package at all," Mr Sims said.
The aged care service provider helps 2000 patients across Central Queensland, assisting people to live independently in their homes but so many of their clients were in need of more assistance.
"There's a large number of people waiting for additional services and that can lead to people going to aged care homes before they want to," he said.
"Ultimately more packages are needed to be released and more transparency around the allocation.
"Given we have an ageing population we need more funding available."
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, said the government was committed to supporting the increasing amount of elderly Australians choosing to remain at home.
"There is more to do, but delivering high quality in-home aged care choices for senior Australians is a priority for our government," Senator Colbeck said.
Since 2017-18, the government has invested an additional $2.2 billion and announced the release of more than 40,000 home care packages across all levels.
"No one is expected to go without care while they wait," he said. "Most senior Australians waiting for a higher package of support have access to other Commonwealth- funded home support such as the Commonwealth Home Support Program or interim Home Care Packages."
There were 99,110 people in a home care package at March 31 - an increase of 16.6 per cent over 12 months.