Speaking up for someone
One of the roles of a carer is to speak up for someone who may not be able to speak for themselves, or who may need help in getting the help or services they need.
It is important that the person you care for is at the centre of any decisions made about them.
What is person-centred care
The person you care for should be respected and allowed to choose how they live, how they are treated and the kind of services they want. This is called ‘person-centred care’.
This approach means:
- recognising that different people may want different things
- letting the person make informed choices
- respecting the wishes of the person
The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights says people have a right to be included in making decisions about their health care.
How to give person-centred care
As a carer, you can help the person you care for get person-centred care. You are likely to know the person well, so you will be able to talk with health professionals about what they want. You can also use this person-centred approach to talk with other professionals (for example, legal services).
You can talk about anything that might affect the person’s care and plans. For example, you can talk about:
- their views, likes and dislikes
- their cultural and religious needs
- how they live
- their financial situation
Person-centred care is particularly important if you are looking after a person with disability, brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It can help older people and those whose condition is likely to get worse to stay independent as long as possible.
Advocating for someone
Advocacy means that you speak up for someone. You may need to advocate for the person you care for to:
- make sure they get information, services or resources
- protect their rights
- make sure they are treated respectfully and professionally by services and staff
- make sure they are not discriminated against
How to advocate for someone
You can advocate in person, for example by speaking up during a medical appointment, or by phone, email or letter.
To advocate effectively, it helps to:
- collect information about the problem
- know your rights and the rights of the person you are caring for
- be clear and firm about what you want
- listen carefully to responses and suggestions, and take notes
Getting help with advocacy
Some organisations provide advice or help about advocacy. These include:
- Australian Government Department of Health – National Aged Care Advocacy Program
- Australian Government Department of Social Services – National Disability Advocacy Program
- South Australian Aged Rights Advocacy Service – how to advocate for yourself or others
- Children and Young People with Disability Australia – organisations that provide advocacy
Making a complaint
Sometimes you may not be satisfied with how the person you care for is treated by others. You may be unhappy with a service or the person providing the service. If this is the case, you can make a complaint for the person you care for.
How to complain
You can complain directly to the service provider. The first step is usually to make an ‘informal’ complaint by just talking to the provider or contacting them by letter, phone or email.
It is a good idea to start with an informal complaint because issues can often be solved quickly and easily.
But if you are not satisfied with their response to your informal complaint, you can keep going. You can:
- make a formal complaint to the service – ask them how you can make a formal complaint. They will tell you what you need to do, who you need to contact, and what happens next
- complain to a government authority or agency – the Australian Government aims to make sure organisations provide fair, good quality services. You can search online for how to make a complaint about a particular service (for example, health care or transport). Some links are provided below
Getting help with complaints
Some organisations provide information about complaints processes. These include:
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency – how are complaints and concerns managed?
- Commonwealth Ombudsman – making a complaint
- Australian Human Rights Commission – complaint information
- Carers Victoria – how to make a formal complaint