Written by: Simon Lockyer, Co-Founder of Five.Good.Friends.
The wonderful anthropologist Margaret Mead said “…never ever doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is all that ever has.”
Twelve years ago, a beautiful friend aged 33 was in need of full time care. MS was slowly taking her life. Much to my dismay and shock, her husband informed myself and two other friends that the only real option for a young person in need of 24/7 care was an aged care nursing home. With this discovery and driven by their call for change, a new movement was born, a charity begun and the community sprang into action. The cause and charity they inspired was Youngcare. To this day it remains one of the most powerful and humbling experiences of my life. I was moved by what a community can do when it realises an injustice exists, when it feels the depth and pain of that injustice and when it decides a new way must be found. In a little over two years and with the love and support of many a great person and organisation, (too many to name in this post), Australia’s first nursing home for young people with high care needs was built. It remains a powerful symbol of change and a life changing home for its residents and their families.
Twelve years on and again driven by personal experience I have discovered another cause, another fight, another issue that must be amplified and addressed. Ironically it sits at the opposite end of where Youngcare began. How we care for and help our ageing parents, friends and loved ones is broken. Really broken. While there are many dedicated, committed and selfless people working to provide in home care, the system in which they work has forgotten what it is all about. Home Care has become all about tasks, hours and packages. Throughout this journey I have met people who work for some of our largest providers, whose job of caring has been reduced to a KPI based on the number of showers they must complete before noon. They are treated like programmed robots rushing to the next appointment. I have heard of how a different person will turn up each day to provide these forms of intimate help. My god, where is the dignity in that? A different person each day to help me shower!! In my own experience I have found how hard it is for a family to co-ordinate a set of helpers and carers all focused on different tasks driven by their scheduling, not the life of the person they have the honour and privilege of caring for. I have witnessed the anxiety of not knowing who is in the home of a loved one and when; and the helplessness of being excluded from information as to how the help and care for a loved one is going.
This point alone is worth understanding and exploring. In Australia, today 85% of working women aged 45 and over will be providing or organising the help and care for a loved one or ageing parent. For men, the figure is 70%. In our economy, these people are called informal carers and, depending on what study you read, you will find their contribution to the care sector is valued at between $33 billion and $40 billion. That’s huge! They are the ones making it work.
These people are intimately and lovingly involved in the care of people they love, but does our current system and set of providers acknowledge this? They are under pressure. They are trying to manage families of their own, careers and the escalating pressures of modern life. To not keep these people informed of how their loved ones are being cared for is wrong, particularly in this day and age of technology. This type of care is also expensive, opaque and confusing.
Minimum hours, different rates, administration fees make it hard, near impossible, to understand what it really costs and what type of help you can get. Why would you make it so hard for people who quite often are trying to manage a fixed income or are receiving a benefit, surely it should be simple. Surely you want to help, not add to their burden with worry and confusion
I could go on, but this risks becoming a rant. Hopefully the case for change has been made and you are asking, “well what are you going to do about it?” or “what are you asking us to do about it?”
Well, in answer to the first question, together with my co-founders Nathan, Tim and David we started Five.Good.Friends. This time it’s not a Charity, but a Social Enterprise. Yes, it is a business. A business with a very clear, purposeful and much needed mission and fight:
To re-invent in home help and care for individuals as well as the family so that everyone is kept informed, in touch and most importantly in control.
You see through all those little examples I cited, it is the erosion of control that means people have to submit to the task-focused, hours-driven type of services on offer, rather than being able to LIVE their life their way with the loving help and care they need.
To combat this, our approach has four big differences to traditional in-home care solutions that will revolutionise care for recipients in Australia by ensuring it is all about them and how they want to live their life.
- Membership not hours: Five.Good.Friends. is a membership model, meaning people pay a weekly or yearly membership fee and then receive help at significantly cheaper rates than current. There are no penalty rates and no minimum hours. The focus isn’t on the how many hours you need, but what type of help you want and when. It’s all about you.
- Technology to keep everyone informed, in touch and in control: The delivery of help is scheduled and monitored through the ‘Five.Good.Friends. App’ providing Members, and their family (if desired) the peace of mind of knowing who is in the home, when, what help has been provided and how happily it was received via a rating out of five stars
- A tailored help plan: A skilled and caring Community Manager meets with prospective Members (and their families if desired) to understand their needs and a personal help plan is then designed that matches you to the best vetted and verified local Helpers.
- One trusted relationship to grow with needs over time: With Five Good Friends members and their families have one trusted relationship to manage their help needs as they change over time.
No more confusion, no more inflexibility, no more fitting your lives around the help provider.
Instead, the administering of your help and care will revolve around You. That’s the Care Revolution. It’s sad that something so simple has been so lacking that delivering it can be called a revolution, but that’s exactly what it is. And it’s here.
Oh and in answer to the question “What are you asking us to do”, we’re asking you to expect better for yourself, for your loved ones, your future self who will need these services. We’re asking you to investigate what kind of care package your parent or friend may be receiving and see whether they could do better.
When Customer Directed Care commences in February, you will be able to choose who delivers your care, and who you choose can greatly effect the quality of the help and care you receive as well as the quantity. Make sure you are getting the best for yourself or your loved one. Make sure your help and care services are fitting around you and your life – not the other way around. Make sure the family is not shut out of the communication loop and decision making process. Demand better care! Care about what help and care you get. Spread the word. Make it known that better is possible and together we’ll move care forward in this country. #FiveGoodFriends #AdvanceAustraliaCare #Whyicare
(Image: Simon Lockyer, Co-Founder of Five.Good.Friends.)