As I approach my 44th Christmas (yep, I am admitting my age) I am reflecting on many things, as we all do at this time of year. I am a Mum, a wife, a sister and thankfully still a daughter to my two beautiful parents. At this stage of my life it feels like I’ve become the nucleus of the family - the oldest sibling with a generation either side of me.
I’ve always worked in the healthcare industry so have long been the “go-to” for free medical advice from my family and friends. My brother would ask about his son’s fever, my sister-in-law would call because her daughter had a rash or a friend would seek a recommendation for a surgeon for her mum’s knee replacement.
I in turn call on a trusty resource of beautiful friends who have also made the choice to work in the field of medicine or nursing to get their input and invariably go back with a solution.
It has been a real privilege to be able to help so many people find their way through a very complex Australian health system. I feel incredibly fortunate that I can navigate the system or find the right people to ask for help - a task I know is daunting, sometimes insurmountable, for many.
Since moving from the acute medical sector into the community space, I find myself asked increasingly for help with ageing parents. It has forced me to admit that my peer group and I are getting older, as are our parents. When I meet new people in a similar stage to life as me and explain what we do at Five Good Friends, it generally sparks a conversation about someone in their life currently facing some sort of challenge.
It may be that they have a father with Dementia and their Mum is struggling to cope. It could be that their Dad lost Mum 12 months ago and he’s not managing by himself. Every story is unique, but also familiar, sharing a threads of changing needs, proud individuals, caring family and a desire to live as well as possible, for as long as possible.
They want to help but don’t really know where to start. They’re often “at the nucleus of the family” but simply don’t know how to go about finding the solution, or at least easing the burden. Often they feel like they need to make fast decisions, but they're not armed with the information to make good decisions.
At Five Good Friends we truly believe in the power of human connection and keeping older Australians living in their own homes and communities with the family and friends that they love.
Research shows us that health outcomes are better for people that remain in their own home. Sometimes they just need some help to do so and that’s what Five Good Friends does – connects carers or helpers with those that need it, for many different things, as regularly or irregularly as required.
I explain to them that Five Good Friends was borne out of frustration with the traditional home care options (and the complexity around it). Five Good Friends supports people from the early stages of researching care. Our Care Advice team is expert at exploring individuals eligibility to government funded assistance.
Five Good Friends has a network of Helpers that are matched specifically to the our Members, with complete transparency and visibility to the family and Member through relationship managers and the use of some very clever technology behind the scenes in our app.
I am now very privileged to be helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society - I am discussing people’s ageing parents. These new and old friends of mine are often well-educated professionals but they are completely in the dark as to how they can assist their loved ones.
Looking into 2019, I see a challenging Australian care landscape, but one with plenty of opportunity for those willing to seize it and make a change.
An upcoming Federal Election and forecast budget surplus are helping to draw attention & action to aged care, particularly in the delivery of increased funding (the Gov. this week has announced $287 million over three years to bring forward 5,000 level 3 and 5,000 level 4 packages as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook).
This is no panacea however. Waiting lists for care packages remain far too long - with many currently in queues for longer than 18 months before receiving appropriate funding. There remains question marks around the challenge of finding & attracting the appropriately skilled workforce required to support these increased needs of the estimated additional 120,000+ Australians needing home care.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will bring what we are sure will be a confronting investigation into past practices and systems, particularly amongst Residential Care operators. We must hope that with honest commitment to embracing the invariable suggested reforms and a wide range of voices contributing to requests for innovation it will deliver an actionable plan for sector wide improvement.
I know we at Five Good Friends have an exciting and innovative year ahead as we continue to strive to build the most human technology solutions and deliver the highest standards of care for our members. I'm proud to work for a business that is going on this journey of change along with our members and their families - people who are just like my friends and family.