Ell is a 67-year-old Forgotten Australian who was placed into 'care' as a toddler and later went into the foster system. Ell has never been able to find out her ‘real’ name and date of birth. Her mother did not register her birth and often changed her name and extensive searching through Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Department of Children’s Services has not been able to identify these details. Because of this, Ell has never had a birth certificate which has caused many hardships when attempting to prove her identity throughout her life. This has increased her anxiety about applying for aged care support.
Currently, Ell is privately renting and, due to multiple falls, has been recommended by an occupational therapist to have a shower installed in her bathroom. She is too anxious to approach her landlord about this situation, despite being deemed eligible for home modifications, as she is scared her landlord is looking for a reason to evict her and raise the rent with a new tenant.
Ell has also been deemed eligible for cleaning and transport aid but, instead of being referred to a single provider, has been recommended to a variety of providers which once again raises her anxieties about not only explaining her situation but also needing to reach out to multiple agencies that she will need to be able to trust.
As Ell can’t currently afford a personal medical alarm, she was referred to a Red Cross service for regular phone contact. When she was unable to answer her phone, because it is old and unreliable – which is not uncommon among Care Leavers who often can’t afford to buy a replacement – the police were sent to follow up with her. This was an extremely distressing situation for Ell as it was an unexpected call out and as someone afraid of authority, as many Forgotten Australians are due to the gross mistreatment of power from figures in their childhood, this was an enormous anxiety-inducing situation. While this process would have been explained to her when she signed up for the service, Ell has been continually confused by the service since they started the process with her.
Ell did not understand how My Aged Care worked and was often confused by people calling her from different organisations. “All these people keep calling me,” she said, “and I don’t understand what they’re talking about half the time.” In the end, she cancelled all her services before they got started as she found the process confusing and distressing.
During COVID isolation, Ell was rung weekly by members of The National Roundtable’s team, and she chatted for lengthy periods on the phone and frequently said she had ‘cabin fever’ as wandering around the local shops is a diversion from the loneliness in her life. Her only support is her ex-daughter-in-law.
Ell needs an aged care navigator who understands that it takes time to build a relationship of trust, that working with her towards having support is likely to be two steps forward and one (or two) back, especially in the beginning and that those who are providing support need to understand the impact that childhood trauma has had on the lives of Forgotten Australians.
This story was part of the submission to the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety. The name has been changed for the individuals' privacy.