Simply, we wouldn’t have one as we know it today if it were not for volunteers.
Despite its many flaws, aged care in Australia would be worse if it was not for the informal and unpaid care provided by family and friends of those in care.
More and more older Australians are choosing to age in their own homes rather than enter a care facility. Family and friends have stepped up to make that possible, supplementing formal home support services.
Unpaid carers now underpin our formal aged care services. What is more, it is clear the replacement value of these services would be significant, critically affecting the system’s sustainability.
Caring can be demanding. It is not easy. As the Aged Care Royal Commission reports in its latest Background Paper, carers face increasing challenges and need support: “The need to ensure current services appropriately assist carers to meet the needs of the people that they care for appears greater than ever.”
Surprisingly, carers are not seeking available support, including respite care. The paper says, in 2015, 58.9 per cent of all primary carers surveyed had not received assistance from organised services in the previous six months. Of those surveyed, 35.1 per cent were not satisfied or were unsure about the range of organised services available to assist with their caring role, and 25.4 per cent were unaware of the range of services available.
Potential reasons for this may be a lack of carer-awareness and support to link into appropriate services, as well as specific challenges faced by the needs of diverse communities.
“A lack of cultural appropriateness in services can make it difficult for carers to access and engage in the provision of the formal care of their family member,” the paper says.