A hearing of the Royal Commission in Broome has heard about the lack of respite services in remote Western Australia.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety opened its fourth public hearing in Broome on Monday, focusing on care in remote areas, unique care needs of indigenous Australians and issues of access and inclusion.
People who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander make up 16 per cent of the remote population and 46 per cent of the very remote population, Counsel Assisting Paul Bolster told the inquiry in his opening address.
Over 60 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in major cities or inner regional areas, which the royal commission will hear evidence from in later hearings, including at the Perth hearing next week, Mr Bolster said.
At the inquiry, the aged care royal commission heard evidence from Madeleine Jadai, a 55-year-old woman from Bidyadanga in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Ms Jadai told the inquiry that she has been caring for her 62-year-old sister Betty, who is living with dementia, since their mother died eight years ago.
“Before mum died, Betty was able to look after herself,” Ms Jadai told the inquiry on Monday.
“After my mum passed away, Betty got distressed. Her spirit went really down… I look after Betty now for her safety and wellbeing.”
Ms Jadai is only able to take a break from caring for Betty when she visits the Home and Community Care centre, where she goes most mornings to have meals and spend time with older people in the community.
“The HACC centre looks after her well. Sometimes they take Betty on a trip to go fishing or on country,” Ms Jadai said.
She said there needs to be better access to respite care in remote areas.
“I would like my sister to be able to get better access to respite care. Sometimes I have asked whether or not Betty can get respite care in Broome, but I’m told that is full,” Ms Jadai said.
Ms Jadai told the royal commission she had to take Betty with her to a funeral because she was unable to access respite care for her sister.
“One time I had to go for a funeral out in the desert and I had to take Betty with me because I could not get her into respite care and I couldn’t leave her with other family. We drove over 1000 [kilometres] to the funeral. Betty got sick and needed antibiotics,” she said.
She said having access to more respite care services would make a big difference.
As well as caring for her own children, grandchildren and Betty, she is also the sole carer for children from her other sister, who died in a car accident a few years ago.
“Being a carer takes up all my time,” she said.
Ms Jadai said there are things she would like to do in her own time however she is unable to do so because of her caring responsibilities.
“I love my family and I’m really proud of myself looking after them. Looking after so many people means I’m really tired all the time,” she said.
The hearing continues next week in Perth and will inquire into the nature of person-centred care, advanced care planning and palliative care services.
To stay up to date on the latest about the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality go to our special coverage. We will also be issuing regular Royal Commission Roundup reports which you’ll receive in addition to your weekly e-newsletters.
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