For many of us, the flu means time off work and lots of bed rest, but for carers this can be a very frightening and stressful time.  How do we continue to care for our loved one, when we can barely manage to care for ourselves?  How do we plan for this and who can we turn to for advice and support?

The 2017 flu season was one of South Australia’s worst. In fact, The Department of Health reported that 2017 was our worst since the 2009 pandemic year.  Each year it is estimated that influenza causes an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3000 deaths among Australian aged over 50 years.  HealthDirect has forecast that the 2018 flu season will peak in August this year, so planning and preparation is important, especially for carers of the elderly.

The flu season places an extraordinary burden on our hospital system and unfortunately, our elderly are often amongst the hardest hit, which then directly impacts on our aged care system as well.  To prepare for this tricky and unpredictable time of year, here are a few steps carers of the elderly can take:

Step One: If you are the primary carer for a loved one, consider registering with your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre.  You can do this by calling 1800 052 222 during business hours.  You may be able to register over the phone or the operator may direct you to complete an online or postal registration.  The registration process is simple and will mean that you can call them if you are suddenly unwell and you need help to care for your loved one at home.  If you suddenly need help caring for your loved one, but you haven’t had time to register yet, call them anyway to request urgent assistance.  Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres offer a 24hr emergency service, so your calls will always be answered.

Step Two: If you are caring for an aged person, make sure that you have their important documentation in order.  In the event that you become unwell you may even need to be hospitalised and this could mean that your loved one may not be able to stay at home.  In this situation, they may need an urgent admission into a residential respite facility while you recover.  This may happen quite quickly, so having the necessary documentation in order will be helpful.  If the person you care for has an Aged Care Assessment (ACAT) also known as “My Support Plan”, try to locate this document and make an electronic copy.  You could take a photograph of the document on your smart phone and then this can be accessible in an emergency if required.  The most important part of the ACAT or My Support Plan will be the Respite Code, which will be required by any Residential Respite Facility in order to enable an admission.  Having other information handy, such as the person’s Medicare Card Number, Health Care Fund, etc will also be very helpful.

Step Three: If the person you are caring for needs to go to emergency residential respite, contact an Aged Care Professional such as “Your Aged Care Companion” on 8332 8409.  Our consultants will be able to source an emergency placement and facilitate admission at any time if you are in crisis.  Remember, though, if you are seeking respite placement for a loved one who already has flu symptoms, medical attention is required – not residential respite.  Bringing flu symptoms into an aged care facility is unfair for other residents and their families and our consultants will instead direct you to seek medical attention rather than placement.

Your Aged Care Companion is currently offering one hour consultations to assist carers and their families with planning for emergencies.  You can contact us on 8332 8409 to arrange for a consultation either at our office at 471 The Parade, Magill or we can come to you if you prefer.