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How to get the right services to tackle frailty

A range of services are available to help older Australians optimise their health and maintain their independence for longer. Getting the right information and support in place is about getting the steps in place to for a positive ageing journey.

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Getting the right information and support

Frailty is a common clinical condition in which someone is more vulnerable to experiencing adverse outcomes in response to a stressor, such as a fall or minor medical procedure.

This condition is caused by a range of factors and often characterised by reduced strength, endurance, and physiological function. Because it develops gradually, frailty frequently goes unnoticed. It’s also linked with getting older, but the two definitely don’t have to occur together.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of becoming frail. You can also take positive steps to limit the impact of frailty – and even reverse it in some cases – once frailty has been identified.

 

There are plenty of options for support

If you or someone you love has discovered they are frail or at risk of frailty – by using our Positive Ageing Tool, for example – numerous options are available to support you to live your best life into your advanced years.

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What services are available to support someone who is frail?

Numerous options are available to support you to live your best life into your advanced years.

Some of these include:

  • Allied health services, such as physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy and dietetics
  • Community nursing
  • Personal care at home
  • Respite care services
  • Residential aged care, and
  • Home care packages.

Elle Mamalis, Benetas’ Regional Operational Team Leader for Community Health and Care, explains there are four levels of Home Care Package available for older Australians living in the community. Being eligible for a Home Care Package means that the government will subsidise the cost of your care. Level one package covers lower needs. Level 4, the highest, is designed for high needs care.

These range from a level one package, which provides two hours of services per week, up to level four, which provides 12 to 14 hours of services per week. The funds in your package can be allocated to a wide array of services and/or equipment that can support you to manage or at times prevent frailty, Elle explains.

“For example, if you’re on a home care package with us and something comes out of the Positive Ageing Tool, like pain management or needing to exercise or improve your sleep, we can link clients to the types of services or specialised equipment (such as breathing machines) that will help to address those issues,” she says. We’ll talk more about some common services below.


How do I get started receiving services?

Elle explains that you need to follow a process to get started, regardless of the type of service. The first step is contacting My Aged Care – the Australian Government's aged care service provision and information portal. This is where you discover whether you or your loved one meet the eligibility criteria to receive government funded services. If you are not eligible for a package, or if you need services while you wait for your package to come through, you can pay for care services directly.

You can start online at the My Aged Care website, or call their contact centre on 1800 200 422. Multiple accessibility options are available, including information in 22 languages, a translating and interpreting service, and access via Auslan Connections.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, My Aged Care will refer you to an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) for an assessment. Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) consist of individuals who are suitably qualified to assess your care needs and help you access the most appropriate Australian Government subsidised aged care services.

Your assessment will identify your eligibility for care packages that support you to remain in your own home, or for respite or permanent care in a residential facility. Once the assessment is approved, you can choose whether to access the services you are eligible to receive.

Once your application is approved, you’ll receive a letter from the government with a unique referral code and advising you have 56 days to choose a service provider, Elle says. You may be placed on a waitlist until the appropriate package becomes available.


What can be included in my package?

Elle explains that home care packages cover a vast array of service and equipment options. Some examples include:

  • Personal care such as showering and toileting
  • Allied health assessments and therapies
  • Shopping and social outings
  • Minor home maintenance
  • Nursing assessment
  • Gardening
  • Spring cleaning, or
  • Laundry services.

She likens the higher-level packages to having a hospital bed in the community, where services such as home nursing and personal care are tailored to help you remain in your own home for as long as possible.

It’s important to note that anything provided under a package must fall within the Aged Care Quality Standards and be linked to your care needs, safety or wellbeing. For example, someone with a tremor caused by Parkinson’s disease may request a new kettle so they can make hot drinks independently. A package could fund a specialised anti-tip kettle, but not a standard one from a store.

For some items, funding may require an assessment or approval. For example, a request for an electric hospital-style bed would need to be accompanied by an occupational therapy report justifying why it is needed. As Ellie says however, this is not always difficult with the support of the home care service provider.


The Benetas approach - The full suite of aged care services

Benetas offer a full range of aged care services, including everything from home care packages to respite care and residential aged care. Where they don’t have specific professionals on staff (such as podiatrists or occupational therapists), they have arrangements with qualified, experienced providers who have met Benetas’ service agreement criteria including police checks.

As your needs change, so can the services you use. For example, if your need for support increases, you may become eligible for a higher-level Home Care Package or respite services. Benetas can partner with you throughout the entire aged care journey to make this as seamless and simple as possible.


Client-centred and collaborative support

Clients on Home Care Packages are allocated a personal case manager, Elle says. “Their role is to address the clinical care needs of our clients, do any specialised referrals and follow-ups, and complete regular reviews to ensure their needs are being met.” Every client is placed on a care plan (called a ‘partnership plan’), which starts with setting goals for your care based on what is most important to you, Elle says.

Benetas takes a collaborative approach so, with your consent, your partnership plan may also include input from your family.

The Benetas health professional completing your assessment has access to your My Aged Care client files, which gives them some insight about your health and support needs, Elle explains. It also enables them to identify issues that have resolved and those that have escalated and need to be addressed more urgently.

You are in control of how you spend your funding, and, as a not-for-profit organisation, choosing Benetas means we’ll help you get the most from it.


A holistic model of care

Elle adds that the Benetas care approach is based on what health professionals call the ‘biopsychosocial’ model, which is a “holistic model of health, no matter what your age is.”

“You probably won’t hear clinicians using this term, but it’s how they’ll be thinking in the back of their mind.” She explains that ‘bio’ stands for ‘biological’ and covers the physical factors that influence your health and wellbeing – for better or worse. “For example, a biological aspect could be sleeping, diet, or exercise. If you get those right, you'll become healthier,” she says.

The ‘psycho’ is short for psychological, which Elle explains is “how you see yourself and how you see the world, including things like your self-esteem, thoughts and feelings. Some people can have a healthy mindset while others may benefit from psychological support such as counselling.”

The ‘social’ part includes your friends, family and community networks and your housing situation. “We have clients who live in all sorts of dwellings and that can affect your health,” Elle explains.

All three aspects need to be considered to help ensure you age well and enjoy optimal quality of life. As Elle points out: “If you just focus on one area and you're not so strong in another, your health isn’t balanced. You could have all the friends and family in the world but if you can't sleep, you're not going to feel very healthy. If you get some strategies to help you sleep, you can have friends and sleep, and your thoughts will be clearer.”

She adds that the Positive Ageing Tool is a great place to start exploring where you might benefit most from support for better overall health and maintaining independence. “It’s got things like recipes for weight loss, exercises and tips for improving your sleep – it all touches on that holistic paradigm.”

More importantly, all three aspects are amenable to input that can help your health and lifestyle for longer. “For example, if a client is having trouble sleeping, we can give them specialised information, refer them to a sleep clinic or to see their GP,” Elle says.

“We also try to think out of the box as part of positive ageing,” she says, “like asking carers to go for a walk with you and your pet dog, sit at home watering plants or reading magazines with you, or going for a drive with you to the beach or a park.”

At Benetas, we focus on forming long-term partnerships with our clients and supporting them throughout the aged care journey. As a not-for-profit organisation that has been providing aged care services in Victoria for more than 70 years, we are committed to helping you stay independent and doing what’s important to you – so you can live your best life throughout your ageing journey.

 

Support to stay at home

Benetas can support you to stay independent and continue doing what makes you, you; all from the familiar surrounds of your own home. We offer an extensive range of home care services and funding options to suit your individual circumstances.

Discover Homecare
 

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Recognising and monitoring your risk of frailty to ensure it’s managed at all stages of your life is crucial. When recognised early – or better still, before it starts – it’s easier to limit the impact of frailty, introduce interventions to prevent physical decline, and ensure that you can stay healthier and independent for longer living a full life in the community. Read More.

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Positive Ageing Tool

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