Aged care royal commission told respite services lacking in remote WA

Royal Commission into Aged Care continues. Source: Getty Images

Unable to access respite services for her dementia-sufferer sister, a Kimberley woman had no choice but to take her on a 1000km drive to a desert funeral.

A woman from a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia's Kimberley region has called for better aged care respite services, saying her family responsibilities leave her constantly exhausted.

Bidyadanga resident Madeleine Jadai told an aged care royal commission hearing in Broome on Monday that her 62-year-old sister Betty, a dementia sufferer, could no longer look after herself following the death of their mother.

"Her spirit went really down," Ms Jadai said.

"I look after Betty now for her safety and wellbeing."

Betty would wander off and get angry, and while other community members tried to help, they didn't understand dementia well.

Ms Jadai also looks after the children of her other sister, who died in a car accident a few years ago, as well as her own children and grandchildren.

"Being a carer takes up all my time," she said.

"Looking after so many people means I'm really tired all the time. There are other things that I would like to do but I can't."

She told the hearing she only gets a break when her sister visits the local Home and Community Care centre.

Respite care, some 190km away in Broome, is never available.

"I have asked whether or not Betty can get respite care in Broome, but I'm told that it is full.

"Having more access to respite care would make a big difference to me."

Ms Jadai said she once had to take Betty on a more than 1000km journey to a desert funeral because she could not secure respite care, and her sister got sick on the trip.

Faye Dean, the community care supervisor at Bidyadanga Community Care Centre, agreed more respite services were needed.

She also agreed Aboriginal people needed to learn more about dementia.

"It would be good to get some help," Ms Dean said.

"They think that dementia could be a mental health illness or people are just making it up to get attention."

The Broome hearings will continue until Wednesday.

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