Little is known about how older Aboriginal adults access and engage with aged care services. A project has been initiated by the Port Augusta Community to address gaps in Aboriginal aged care and research is being conducted for the broader Aboriginal Eyre Peninsula Communities in partnership with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School Aboriginal research unit.
The lead researcher Kym Thomas, from Port Augusta, is an Aboriginal person, providing and ensuring that spirit and integrity are at the forefront of all community and stakeholder engagement and activities. Communities involved in the research include Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla. Kym has been supported in his work by A/Professor Pascale Dettwiller (PL) and Emma Richards (PL).
Aboriginal advisory groups were established in each town and consulted. They provided insightful, helpful and preliminary information about the lack of current culturally appropriate services and barriers with service delivery of aged care. This information helped to develop a culturally-appropriate questionnaire that the advisory groups were invited to pilot test for ‘ease to use and understand’.
Kym was the moderator and expressed Aboriginal participation in all aspects of the research, to ensure “we get it right”. All meetings were conducted in a permissive and non-threatening environment. Researchers applied the principle of Spirit and Integrity; taking into consideration responsibility, reciprocity, respect, equity and cultural continuity allowing Aboriginal peoples to uphold, enjoy and protect their knowledge, cultures, languages and identity, and exchange and share for the betterment of ageing well.
The research sample (at time of writing) of 39 participants is represented by two-thirds women and one-third of men. The most designated age group was 60 to 69 years (45 per cent), followed by respondents between 70 and 79 years (37 per cent), and between 50 and 59 years of age only represented 18 per cent. The participants received a mixture of Home Care Packages (HCP) or the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP); 16 participants indicated that they are receiving aged care services, while 22 participants indicated they are not receiving aged care services. However, most of them assumed that transport services were a part of their HCP or CHSP. This was an additional service provided by Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisations (ACCHOs); 40 per cent declared receiving assistance from the ACCHOs. The participants highlighted that 50 per cent received assistance from the Country Connect (SA Health) after discharge from hospital for HCP or CHSP.
A staggering 79 per cent of participants declared that group information was the best means of receiving information about accessing aged care services. This characteristic was aligned with the cultural continuity principle.
Most of the participants don’t have access to a computer to check My Aged Care Portal, which was identified as an issue for the Aboriginal participants and families. My Aged Care Portal is not relevant for people least equipped, in life’s capacity. All the participants declared that the ACCHOs aged care facilitator was the person who could assist for their needs providing they have one. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommendations 32,34,35 (issued in 11/2020) would apply to these findings. However, during the interviews, it was clear that little training was provided to that person in navigating My Aged Care Portal (recommendation 36).
All the participants reported losing their services to COVID-19 in early 2020, and little communication or follow-ups were provided, leaving them with no information or alternatives. Recommendation 69 dealing with access to specialist telehealth services may alleviate some of the clients’ issues. Once all data is available and analysed, reports will be presented to the diverse stakeholders that contributed.