No beds for frail in Ballarat: city's dementia patients left waiting

Ballarat has a shortage of dementia-specific aged care beds with both public and private facilities in our city stretched to capacity.

Ballarat resident Stephen Rogers discovered the severity of the problem while searching for a bed for his mother, who lives in a privately-owned aged care home in the outback NSW town of Wee Waa.

Her closest relative lives 60 kilometres away in Narrabri and the other family members live in Ballarat.

Mr Rogers said he had contacted every aged care facility listed for Ballarat only to be told his mother would have to go on a waiting list.

“There are no facilities around Ballarat and you can’t do anything – it’s a joke,” he said.

“I don’t see why I should have to drive 1500 kilometres just to see my mother.”

Ballarat Health Services (BHS) residential aged care facilities provide beds for up to 424 residents, and of those, 50 are dedicated to clients with dementia.

Occupancy rates are 100 per cent, with up to 12 people on a waiting list ready to move in when a dementia-specific bed becomes available.

There are also a number of private providers in Ballarat that provide aged care residential services. 

The Courier was unable to find an available dementia-specific bed in Ballarat yesterday after contacting numerous privately owned facilities.

Alzheimers Australia Victoria dementia consultant Glenda Hipwell said the aging population and improvements to the diagnosing of dementia meant the number of people living with dementia in Ballarat would continue to grow.

She said most services in Ballarat would be at capacity, although vacancies changed on a daily basis.

“We have between eight and 15 referrals every second day here,” she said.

“We have an older population here in Ballarat and the longer people live the more likely they are to develop dementia.”

Ballarat also has a significant proportion of younger-onset dementia, the youngest person being 32.

Ms Hipwell said Alzheimers Australia encouraged its clients to do forward planning from the early stages of their diagnoses.

“There are not empty beds sitting around the state anywhere,” she said.

In Victoria there are currently 72,000 people living with dementia and 56 people a day develop it.

A BHS spokesperson said extensive support was available for older people in their own homes. 

“Older people or their carers who need assistance can be referred by their GP to an Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS),” he said.

“ACAS helps frail older people and their carers identify what kind of care will best meet their needs.

“For an older person to access Commonwealth funded residential care, residential respite, Community Aged Care Packages, Extended Aged Care in Home packages or flexible care, they must first be assessed as eligible by an ACAS.”

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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