The government has established a special My Aged Care case management team to link the most vulnerable older people to providers during COVID-19.

The health department’s channel management director Catherine Burkitt told a webinar on Wednesday the team was established in response to the pandemic to help clients with complex needs or lack of family support who are struggling to get the help they need.

“The team makes sure they fully understand the client’s needs,” she told an OPAN webinar on navigating aged care services during COVID.

“They might link them to appropriate service providers or local organisations and charities;  they can talk to service providers on their behalf and follow up with phone calls to check how they’re progressing.”

Catherine Burkitt during an OPAN webinar on May 13, 2020.

Ms Burkitt said the aged care portal has received 6,000 additional calls from older people in need of services as a result of COVID-19.

“We were very concerned about how we would ensure all the people in the community would be able to access aged are during this difficult time,” she said.

Aged care system navigator pilots are also continuing but are now being conducted via video call.

Clients can also use their My Aged Care ID to access home delivery services under a partnership with the big supermarkets, and urgent and immediate care can be accessed without assessment until July 31.

Advocates as agents

Queensland-based disability and ageing service ADA is fielding about 100 calls a day, many from people who are seeking community services during COVID, advocacy services manager Rebecca Kok says.

She says ADA has launched a Call Back and Check In initiative to make sure clients are getting services from providers.

“If providers are noticing that clients in the community are cancelling their services, we’re making contact with them, providing information around what their rights and entitlements are,” she told the webinar.

“We’re basically problem solving and strategising with them to ensure they feel comfortable to potentially re-access those services and getting the services they need.”

Ms Kok also says the Advocates as Agents program is helping clients access services.

The program, piloted by OPAN and the health department prior to COVID-19, gives an authorised advocate or representative access to an older person’s information on My Aged Care.

“The fact that our advocates can have immediate access to the client’s my aged care portal means that we can assist with assessment, and access much quicker and easier than we could before,” Ms Kok says.

Meals on wheels upskills

Gail Carroll, general manager of strategy and services at Meals on Wheels, says the organisation has significantly ramped up operations since the pandemic.

Meals on wheels is concentrating on wellness and connection, she says.

“We’re monitoring the clients, talking to them, ensuring they’ve got someone to talk to during the day,” she said.

MoW is also training and upskilling its army of volunteers to ensure they can work safely, covering food handling, use of PPE, distancing and how to safely heat meals in an older person’s home. Volunteers are also being provided with masks, glove and sanitisers.

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