No surprises in battle to obtain home care

By Chief Advocate Ian Henschke

New government-funded research by independent researcher Dr Sarah Russel that likened trying to arrange home care to ‘going to war’ didn’t come as a surprise to National Seniors.

The research, released this week, reinforced what we’ve had been saying for some years: that ever-growing waiting lists for home care and the lack of a government plan to tackle the issue are unacceptable.

Our own research has highlighted the many problems older Australians face in securing timely home care that meets their needs.

Last month, our CEO Professor John McCallum told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety that the 127,000-strong waiting list for home care was a “running sore and a profoundly critical failure”.

We know people have been dying before they get the higher level 3 and 4 home care packages they’ve been approved to receive, while the overall waiting list just continues growing.

We appreciate the government has pumped a lot of extra money into home care to increase the number of packages available, but there is no overall plan for how it intends to tackle the needs of an ageing population and ever-increasing demand.

This is not an issue that has come out of left field – we’ve known since the early 1980s that Australia would have many more older people by now and their needs would have to be met. During that period, we’ve had boom times, but little provision has been made.

Despite the inadequate supply of home care packages, a report National Seniors released last year found most seniors (87%) receiving home care thought workers treated them with respect. Our findings stemmed from a survey of more than 4,500 Australians aged over 50, interviews with aged care clients and consumer stories of their experiences.

But the survey also highlighted key areas where home care recipients thought the system needed improvement:

  • Services being delivered at times or in ways that were inconvenient to the client
  • A lack of continuity of care for dementia patients and poor training for dementia care
  • The frustration caused by Workplace Health & Safety constraints on cleaning, and poor cleaning services
  • Waiting too long to be assessed, and having to accept a lower level package until a higher one became available
  • Poor communication from the provider, and poor administration of services generally
  • Failures in the delivery of Consumer Directed Care
  • Poor cross-sectoral care coordination.

We know home care is an area the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will look at more deeply in coming hearings and along with the submission we’ve already made, we’ll be continuing to urge the government to come up with a new funding model to eliminate the massive waiting list.

We can’t afford to wait until the Royal Commission ends to address this issue.

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