Sunday, December 09, 2007

SS Secrets

Grannymar has just found out that in the event of an electrical outage, she can be put on a “Critical List” due to her failing health and need for warmth and a telephone. How did she find out? Simply by ringing her electricity provider to notify them of some power surges affecting her lighting.

Why, oh why, do WE have to bear the burden of responsibility in finding out about these things? Why is the SS so secret? They are funded by our taxes so we should know of their existance. Social Services are mean't to provide a service to society which by it’s fundamental nature suggests that the public be made aware of the service provisions available! It’s like some international conspiratorial secret. “Don’t tell the punters what they can get out of social security and we won’t have to do any work.” Is it some sort of plot so that governments can brag about their massive budget surplus whilst those in need remain that way?

Well be aware my friends. Whether you’re aged, have a disabled family member or occupational therapy issue . . . you can get support for a very low price or even free but my God, you have to fight to find out about it!

Years ago, I had an ageing aunt. Sharp as a tack but crippled with Arthritis, she moved to Australia in her twilight years at age 72. After much consideration she bought a villa in one of these “Over 55” retirement villages. It seemed fine. New accommodation, panic buttons in kitchen and toilet, 24 hour access to medical support, a community bus to take you into town on Pension day. Indoor pool, one hole golf course, nice view of the mountains, activities and games room . . . you get the picture.

What they DIDN’T tell us, is that once you are involved in one of these schemes, you lose access to a plethora of community services that you would otherwise qualify for if you owned your own home/flat/unit in an ordinary street. Whilst there are some fees payable by those who can afford it, no client is left in the lurch due to an inability to pay as long as they are in their own home and not an 'aged' facility which includes over 55 retirement complexes. By investing in this property . . . and we didn’t know at the time because nobody told us . . . she disqualified herself from:

  • Meals on wheels
  • Home help (cleaning – shopping)
  • Occupational therapy
  • Home visits by Western Area Health nurses and physiotherapists
  • Companion visits by volunteers
  • Transport assistance
  • Gardening and mowing assistance
  • Home modification

As her health failed. She was forced to move and sell. The panic button was nothing more than an alarm linked into the local (full paying) medical centre which closed at midnight, there was no home help and no desire to provide any unless she paid full dollar for a commercial cleaner or housekeeper. Small blessing but she passed away in hospital while my parents were looking for nursing home accommodation for her.

On another occasion, my father after having a bowel resection and looking pretty good for a while there, succumbed to metastatic liver cancer. He was pretty fit for a long time but when the crash came, it came quickly. He was incredibly tired, he needed some assistance with hand rails in the shower, special mattressing to prevent bed sores, nursing help, home visits by doctors, someone to assist showering him (he would have died rather than have his daughters do it) and despite the best efforts of BabySis and I to keep him comfortable, we wondered how on earth we would receive these services.

Again, only through the mother of one of DrummerBoy’s friends who works within the service, did we hear about the Western Area Health Service and their provision of palliative care ‘at home’. Once linked in, they were fabulous. They dealt with showers and occupational health and safety and counselled us as carers but had I not had access to that one person that briefed me on their existence, we would have struggled.

So, my point? I guess we have to take it on board that Governments, local or otherwise, will not ‘tell’ you about services that are going to cost the taxpayer money. It’s up to individual punters to find out about their entitlements whether it’s Centrelink benefits and pensions, a Senior Commonwealth Health Card that discounts your meds, $1.00 a day travel on all Sydney Public Transport for retired people, local area health and occupational therapy, respite for carers of people with a disability, financial support for carers the aged and the disabled, Council services to make life a little easier or in GrannyMar’s case, the ability to be on a register in the event of an emergency. This seems quite advantageous . . .out here, electricity providers recommend you install a generator!

Caveat emptor my friends . . be aware and become familiar. Had my aunt bought a little townhouse in the centre of Castle Hill and taken advantage of the services available to her, she would have survived much longer, I have no doubt. And my Dad? Well nothing would save him but we were able to care for him at home and make his last days comfortable and familiar. That’s really important in my book!


Anonymous said...

International phenomenon! Have a sister who visits homes, goes shopping and chats with the 'critical' who keeps me informed BUT I'm supposed to be able to receive some of those care items and knock them back saying there are more who are needy and might accept when I'm a lot older. Trying to keep parents at home right now ...

Unknown said...

What I find interesting in this scenario is more often than not, and no finger of blame is being pointed here, the people who cry foul that they aren't told about these things are the same people who cry about how too much information is being collected about their medical status, financial information and other 'Big Brother' measures.

When you consider this say you are diagnosed with an ailment in the private sector, where your health insurance deals with this. Let's now say, using your example, you lose your phone line or electricity service during a storm and you qualify for priority repair and service. Do you expect these companies to use ESP to provide you with the information about these repair services? No, it's up to you to research what services are available to you rather than adopting the fight the power mentality.

I seem to remember a blog post about everyone having access to your information, and granted it was a big night last night (woo go DB and his new cymbals) so if i'm wrong feel free to correct me. But I believe this circumstance is a justification for the kind of information sharing that some of the left leaning cronies are so against. If it has the possibility to inform these people that because Sydney Water knows that they need kidney dialysis they are entitled to a free 400 Kiloliters per year, wouldn't you say this would be beneficial?

grannymar said...

Baino as you discovered, it is by word of mouth or blog, that we can share information. It was pure chance I discovered the 'Critical List' for NI Electricity.

In the UK we are fortunate to have CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau, an organisation of volunteers with branches in every town giving free advice to anyone and everyone about their rights with regard to finance, the law and Social Services. You can call in or make an appointment. They are very helpful and everything is dealt with in a confidential and businesslike way.

Baino said...

Anon: I know it can be difficult and worrying, especially if the elderly are a bit dithery or prone to falling but try to keep them home as long as possible and you get the benefit of local services but you'll have to dig deep to find them. If they need to be moved into an aged care facility, go seek some specialist advice as this can be a minefield in itself.

Ryan: I take your point although I think it's a broad brush you're using. I'm a very 'proactive' person so I go out of my way to find things out but many people don't or can’t. It’s difficult to ascertain the answer unless you know what question to ask. In many cases, we're talking about the elderly and the disabled or carers under great duress. We get a plethora of information about our garbage recycling system via mail from Council, how to be more economical with electricity and how to conserve water with our utility bills. Why not include a pamphlet on social services available via these organisations? Baulkham Hills Council’s Website and Western Area Health’s website are informative but given that fewer than 30% of people over the age of 60 access the internet, they’re useless for information dissemination..

And my young friend, I am a left leaning cronie but I have no problem with shared information (um that’s the point of social democracy . . .sharing with others) Access to a plethora of personal information is already a reality but that's probably a post for another day. I still maintain that the Public Service is exactly that . . .a tax payer funded organisation which should be providing a SERVICE to the wider community. If a company relied on Pubic Service style marketing to get its services out there, it would go under in a flash.
Note: Centrelink’s mission, as the human face of the Commonwealth Government, is to provide easy and convenient access to high quality government and community services that improve the lives of Australian families, communities and individuals.

GrannyMar: I'm sure we have something similar here but I'm not aware of it. Again, I'd have to 'seek' them out if the need arose. The journalistic side of my job means I do quite a lot of research for Seniors and have found much via the internet and some really valuable local sites so I use a lot of that in our