Canberrans are facing the longest waits in the country to access residential aged care, with a median of 301 days between when an application is approved and a person enters an aged care home.
The waiting period far surpasses that of any other state or territory; Western Australia's is the closest in comparison at 176 days, while people from NSW wait about 117 days, and Victorians wait about 90.
More than half of ACT applicants approved by an aged care assessment team wait for over nine months to get into a facility, a report by the Productivity Commission has found. And for many families, that can be far too late.
North Canberra resident Rennae Woodland says her mother Robyn was hospitalised in May last year in Albury after multiple illnesses led to falls, and those falls led to decreased mobility.
She started to apply for residential facilities in Canberra on her mother's behalf and got approved in June, thinking that if they were closer together she would be there in the event of an incident.
But despite the approval, 16 weeks in hospital went by, then an additional nine in respite, and there were still no availabilities. Ms Woodland, an only child, ended up accepting a permanent place in Albury for her mother - three-and-a-half hours from home. Her mother is still on the waiting list in Canberra.
"The last time I called was the second week in January. They say she's still on the waiting list, but there's no availabilities," Ms Woodland said.
"I remember they did say very blatantly at two open days that the onus was on people like me calling and nagging constantly, weekly, so we were at the front of their minds and more likely to get a place.
"That was a bit of a shock."
The toll on her family has been huge, Ms Woodland said. Along with her three-year-old and 19-year-old sons, she has had to organise the sale of her mother's house in order to pay for her care.
She and her husband - a "team, going into this" - are still smoothing out the bumps in their marriage as a result of the stress, and she has had to sacrifice work to help her mother.
"It hasn't really helped the relationship with my mum. It's not as easy as popping in at lunch time to see her - I have to arrange time off work," Ms Woodland said.
"Chances are that mum's just going to stay in Albury because she's not mobile. We're now in the position where ... she would have to be transported by car into a new place and she would not be able to do that."
Of the 830 people who entered residential care in the ACT in 2017-18, about one third did so within three months of their aged care assessment applications being approved.
The median time elapsed, 301 days, is up from 228 days in 2016-17, and 185 days in 2015-16.
A spokesperson for Canberra Health Services said there was no recommended time frame from application approval to when someone should enter residential care.
Entry to residential care was based on bed availability, personal choice and preference - such as someone only wanting a particular suburb, or preferring a single room, the spokesperson said.
Bed availability was the responsibility of the Commonwealth government rather than the ACT government, but measures had been introduced by the territory to keep Canberrans out of hospital, including delivering an orthogeriatric service to people who fractured a hip, the spokesperson said.
"Older people who have an [aged care assessment] for aged care services and are approved for any type of aged care service including residential aged care may take up that care at a time of their choosing," the spokesperson said.
"The approval is simply an option for that person, and many people do not take up care immediately after being approved.
"We note the report does not provide detailed analysis on the types of residential beds available in the territory, and this may influence the type of places that are available for Canberra residents."
Of the 264 people who got approved for home care packages in the ACT in 2017-18, 37 per cent had their services started within three months, while about 63 per cent waited for up to nine months.
A spokesperson for Canberra Health Services said these waits could also be the result of personal choice or preference.
The median elapsed wait time in 2017-18 for home care packages was 164 days, but the Productivity Commission says historical data is not comparable since the "increasing choice in home care" initiative was introduced in February 2017.
The initiative sees consumers allocated a package, from levels one to four, and being given a list of providers to choose from, rather than providers being allocated a certain number of levelled spots.
"The time frame between someone’s [aged care assessment] approval and access to a home care package is determined by the national home care package queue, governed by the Commonwealth. The ACT government has no influence over Canberrans’ access into this program," the spokesperson said.
"The national queue for home care packages commenced in February 2017 and has had an impact on access to all levels of home care packages in the ACT region."
Total federal and territory government spending on aged care services in the ACT was nearly $295 million in 2017-18, up from about $221 million in 2016-17.
National government spending on aged care was about $18.4 billion in 2017-18, or $4572 per older person, which is up from about $17.6 billion in 2016-17.
But ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris insisted spending had dropped.
"We know that the federal Liberal government has cut funding for aged care over the past two years," Ms Fitzharris said in a statement. "This has led to longer waiting times, and more needs to be done at a federal level to ensure Canberrans have access to aged care when they need it."
Some Commonwealth government-funded programs have had their funding cut in the past two years, including veterans' community nursing. But overall, federal spending on aged care has increased.
There were 61,997 older people who entered residential care nationally, and 24,156 people who commenced home care packages.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety began on January 18 this year, with a report due by April 2020.