Aged care respite lacking in remote WA

A woman from a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia's Kimberley region has called for better aged care respite services, saying 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 community care centre.

She tried to get respite care, 190km away 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, community care supervisor at Bidyadanga Community Care Centre, agreed more respite services were needed.

The hearing was told several times indigenous people didn't like having to move away from their country to get care.

"A lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have an innate attachment to the land that they're living in," University of Western Australia geriatric medicine expert Leon Flicker said.

"Moving off-country is a big deal for them."

The royal commission also heard indigenous elders in residential care had an unmet desire for traditional food.

But such connections with culture and country were paramount, residential aged care nurse and Noongar woman Yvonne Grosser said.

"It's one (part) of their healing. What you see at any nursing home ... people are quite sad," Ms Grosser said.

"You can see that their heart is sad and if they had it in country, they'd be happiest."

Another witness told the hearing aged care residents on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait wanted local fresh fish but due to food safety rules, they only had frozen fish delivered.

Professor Flicker said it seemed "churlish" goanna was not served because it was considered unsafe.