GIPPSLAND Southern Health Service (GSHS) fears people are turning away from aged care because of the COVID crisis and misconceptions about the sector.

GSHS director of nursing at the Korumburra hospital, Steven Doyle, said many people had wrong and outdated opinions about public aged care and often regret not accessing it earlier.

GSHS operates three residential care facilities: Alchera House with 20 high care beds co-located within the Korumburra hospital; Hillside Lodge with 30 hostel beds on the hospital grounds at Korumburra, and Koorooman House which has 36 high care home beds on the grounds at Leongatha Hospital.

There are vacancies at all three facilities, and Mr Doyle said there was a trend of people entering aged care later in life and with more advanced care needs.

“People used to come into residential care for respite or earlier than they do now. People want to stay longer at long home, often due to COVID, and home care packages are more refined so more unwell people can stay home longer than before,” he said.

“When they come to a facility now, they are a lot more advanced in their care needs.”

However, some residents and their families regret not making the move sooner.

“Once they’re here they appreciate it, and so do their families,” he said.

“The residents spend time with people with similar interests, they have interesting activities and they have 24-7 care and feel like they aren’t being a burden on their families.

“Aged care doesn’t mean you have to stop doing what you enjoy. It’s a good opportunity to interact with others while having the support you need, making life so much easier.

“We often hear, ‘I wish we had done this a while ago’.”

Mr Doyle said many people didn’t understand the differences between private and public aged care.

“Our residential facilities are attached to a hospital and are staffed according to the same Patient Care Act which means we have mandated ratios,” he said.

“Private nursing homes don’t have to operate under these requirements, which is the biggest difference between public and private aged care.”

Mr Doyle said the Royal Commission into Aged Care was helping the sector and would continue to improve services.

“By 2023, all aged care facilities will be required to operate with nursing ratios so families can be reassured of quality care,” he said.

“All facilities will be the same as the current hospital settings, which is a good thing.”

Feedback from residents and their families about care at GSHS’s facilities is overwhelmingly positive, and Mr Doyle said clear and strict infection control and safety protocols ensure residents have a safe environment.

Alchera has six vacancies and while the building is older and rooms have shared facilities, Mr Doyle said the level of care was not compromised.

He encouraged families to talk about residential care options before needs become urgent.

Residents of the facilities appreciate their surroundings and care received.

Lindsay and Elvie Olden said they enjoy their environment.

“I just like the good company,” Mr Olden said.

“After 60 years of thinking about what to cook for tea, a good meal is put in front of me,” Mrs Olden added.

Mavis Samson said Alchera has a homey and family feel about it: “Don’t leave it too late as you’ll think `I should have come in earlier’.”

She enjoys having no dishes to wash, breakfast in bed and having the paper delivered.

“Above all, the staff are very caring and treat me with respect,” she said.

People interested in inspecting any of the facilities can contact GSHS on 5667 5555.