Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2013 Contents people in Australia to access a lot more material from
overseas, in English or whatever language they want,
NO INFORMATION, NO INDEPENDENCE
Not being able to access information, including on
government websites, is one the biggest problems
visually impaired people face in Australia. While this
change goes a long way, it doesn't solve the problem.
Publishing reading material in an accessible format at
the outset would, Diamond says.
Vision Australia provides blindness and low vision
services nationally. About 70 per cent of its clients are
aged 70-plus, reflecting that blindness and low vision go
hand-in-hand with ageing for many people. Macular degeneration,
which affects central vision, is the leading cause of blindness in
Australia, affecting one in seven people aged over 50, according
to the Macular Degeneration Foundation.
Older people who are losing their sight usually have many
adjustments to make and accessing information may not be the
most important initially but it eventually comes up, Diamond
says. "If we want to make our own decisions and choices in
life and not be totally reliant on others, we need to access
information in order to do that."
Vision Australia also provides rehabilitation services to people
of all ages, whether they live in their own home or residential
care. Rehabilitation helps with orientation and mobility to
assist people to move independently around their home and
community. Services include learning to use a white cane, getting
access to low vision devices and learning how to use them,
receiving expertise with lighting, and occupational therapy to
learn to do tasks differently.
NDIS VERSUS AGED CARE
Vision Australia also has concerns about aspects of the National
Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), being launched in stages
from July 2013; specifically that the proposed 65 age limit for
acquiring a disability could shut older people out of services.
As the draft legislation stands, people who acquire their
disability after age 65 will only be able to access services through
the aged care system, which Diamond says, hasn't provided the
extent of rehabilitation services that Vision Australian offers.
People who acquired their disability at a younger age, will have to
choose either the NDIS or the aged care system once they turn 65.
It doesn't matter which department the money comes from,
Diamond says, "if people can get some really basic services to keep
them independent for as long as possible, then they could
probably stay in their home longer".
Jo Root, national policy manager for national
seniors advocacy organisation, COTA Australia, agrees
access to information affects an older person's ability
to remain independent. It is something that frustrates
COTA members, particularly as their vision slowly
deteriorates. "It comes up mostly in regard to how
much information people are now expected to access
on the net and how websites aren't particularly good for
people with vision impairment," Root says.
Like Vision Australia, COTA is concerned about the
proposed NDIS age limit of 65 for acquiring a disability.
"It's an area fraught with difficulty, putting an age on
how old is old, but 65 is a bit young," Root says. With average life
expectancy in the 80s, age pension eligibility moving to 67 and
the aged care planning ratio based on populations aged over 70, it
doesn't make sense, she says.
People fear being forced into a system less supportive of
independence, because the provision of aids and equipment
in aged care is inferior, Root says. "...There's a whole range of
issues. Particularly, the NDIS is moving to self-managed funding
whereas aged care will have a very limited consumer directed
care, at least initially."
During the concurrent Productivity Commission inquiries into the
aged and disability care systems, COTA recommended that people
with a disability should continue to be funded for their disability as
they age and be able to access aged care when required.
REFORM MEASURES COULD HELP
Root says two parts of the Living Longer. Living Better (LLLB)
aged care reform package might be able to bridge the gap. The
first is consumer-directed care (CDC), where some of the CDC
allocation could be useful for one-off services such as training
for equipment or setting up the home to be more accessible,
provided that didn't leave people without money for other
disability equipment, Root says. "But the level of funding is still
going to be lower than the NDIS."
The other is the move to focus on reablement, Root says. The
government's new Home Support program, scheduled to commence
in July 2015, "will have a focus on prevention and reablement as the
first level of care in an end-to-end aged care system".
Promoting independence, including better access to
rehabilitation services, is an important part of the reform, Root
says. "We need to look at how people could use the reablement
stuff to help them adjust to their vision impairment." n
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