BABY boomers heading into their twilight years will bring a new set of challenges for aged care providers, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has told a ratepayers’ association meeting in his Hasluck electorate.
“The boomers are tech-savvy, financially independent, wealthier than their parents and university educated, and will bring different expectations,” he said.
Outlining some of the challenges facing an ageing population, Mr Wyatt said he was concerned at the plight of dementia patients from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
“Dementia patients often revert back to their mother tongue and if their children don’t speak their language, they become disengaged from their parents,” he said.
He has found LGBTI elderly have concerns about going into aged care among segments of society they grew up with who could not accept their relationships.
Mr Wyatt said when he visits aged care homes he asks how many people never have visitors.
“Up to 40 per cent never have visitors,” he said. “They have family but family reach a point where they don’t come any more if the person has dementia.
“They say they don’t go because the person doesn’t recognise them so there is no point.
“However, their short-term memory might be gone but not their long term.
“They can talk in great detail about their childhoods.
“I watch the way they react to music. Their reaction to music ... they really come alive.”
Another challenge is supporting those with mental issues.
“People with mental health issues don’t lose them as they get older. But as they get older the mental health issues are forgotten.
“They go into aged care and don’t have their regular GP, and the focus is on dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
Mr Wyatt said rural and regional areas have a different set of challenges from metropolitan areas.
“In a country town, an aged care facility is an economic powerhouse. Up to 80 people are employed, around 30 full-timers and the rest part-timers. Money goes into the local economy.
“When a couple of aged care providers have shut down we have seen they shift people to larger centres, families move to the larger towns and this takes social capital out of smaller communities.”
Mr Wyatt said in two years’ time there will be 4.6 million Australians over 60. “We now have about six people working that support someone on a pension or in an aged care facility, but by 2025 that will diminish to about four people.”