Aged care royal commission: Rural location a hindrance in receiving care, couple says

ROYAL COMMISSION: Phillip and Sue Dunlop were called to give evidence about their difficulties in accessing in-home care.
ROYAL COMMISSION: Phillip and Sue Dunlop were called to give evidence about their difficulties in accessing in-home care.

DIRT roads and the odd fox sighting might be part of normal life when living in the Central West, but for Phillip and Sue Dunlop these factors put an immediate stop to their access to aged care services.

The couple moved to their farm, 21 kilometres from a town near Mudgee, after their Blue Mountains home of 42 years burnt to the ground in the 2013.

However, what they loved about their new property - the rural setting, the quiet and the "beautiful view over hills" - led to Mrs Dunlop struggling to get care under the federal government's Home and Community Care (HACC) program.

The couple have been among 20 witnesses to give evidence at the Mudgee hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety this week.

The commission has heard about severe staff shortages in an aged care facility that left staff burnt out, and also fears that staff and families had of speaking up about safety issues in another centre.

Mrs Dunlop, 72, has painful arthritis which severely limits her mobility and she told the commission she has had three different providers since her health deteriorated.

They [the provider] said that they were going to suspend services immediately, because of ongoing issues with the road and the gun.

Phillip Dunlop

Despite the all-weather dirt road to their home being used by neighbours for 20 years "with no problems" her second provider suspended care last December after they "nearly rolled" their vehicle 50 metres from the couple's front gate.

Then, when services were resumed in January, carers arrived just after Mr Dunlop had been unsuccessfully trying to shoot a problem fox near the property's chicken coop.

On this occasion Mr Dunlop had left the unloaded gun in the house to try and shoot the fox a bit later that day.

"They apparently saw the gun, said, 'Bye, Mr and Mrs Dunlop. See you next week' and went off and reported it to the police," he said.

"They [the provider] said that they were going to suspend services immediately, because of ongoing issues with the road and the gun."

The couple told the commission their phone calls and emails to service providers would often go unanswered and they struggled to get adequate in-home care for Mrs Dunlop.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Aged care nurses are overworked and suffering from burnout, nurse adviser Prudence Dear says. Click on photo for story.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Aged care nurses are overworked and suffering from burnout, nurse adviser Prudence Dear says. Click on photo for story.

"It is so, so hard when you can't get any help out there," she said.

"There are other people out on farms who can't move and I think this is what these packages were brought out for, to try and keep people in their own homes, which is a very good idea.

"I would hate to be in a nursing home."

Mr Dunlop said he and his wife wanted to "get the story out there" about the problems they were experiencing to help other people.

"If she has got the care that she needs, it allows her to stay in the house that she likes instead of having to go into a nursing home," he said.

"It was important to try and, I suppose, nail down the problems that we were having and most probably what other people were having that, you know, you just - you couldn't get information, you couldn't - you know, you weren't being responded to."

The three-day Mudgee hearing comes to an end on Wednesday afternoon. The public are welcome to attend or watch the live webcast.

The royal commission will continue to accept submissions until April 30, 2020.

This story Dirt roads and a sneaky fox put an end to Sue's home care first appeared on Mudgee Guardian.